Opening the Word: Salvation is real

If you’re a frequent user of Twitter, you are aware of the internecine squabbles that break out among Catholics.

This Catholic academic declares his or her bona fides against the rest of the hoi polloi who lack a proper education. That Catholic traditionalist insults the piety of those who worship according to the ordinary form of the Mass. Those Catholic commentators declare anathema all who don’t agree with their particular interpretation of the Church.

Reading these tweets, one gets a sense that Catholicism is just another political party, another occasion to choose sides.

To Catholic Twitter, St. Paul speaks, “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ” (1 Cor 12:12). St. Paul is not employing a pleasing metaphor in addressing the Corinthians. The Church is not “kind of” like a body insofar as everyone has a role to play in the body. Instead, those who have been baptized into Jesus Christ have been mystically united to him.

We share a body. With one another. Through Christ.

Further, the language of body in St. Paul is not reducible to the human flesh. The body is also a political entity in the ancient world. The Church is a body insofar as she lives out a distinct kind of politics, a different way of living among one another.

The Church is not a political party where the powerful and the strong win. Instead, the Church is a polis, a city of those gathering around the Lamb once slain in the book of Revelation.

This Gospel is what we hear in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus Christ enters the synagogue and announces that he is the fulfillment of the messianic promises. In his coming, in his advent, glad tidings will be brought to the poor. The prisoner will be set free.

God’s reign has begun. And no one is to be excluded.

You see, this is the problem with Catholic Twitter, as well as prominent media sources. Catholic Twitter and media, whether intentionally or not, often exclude.

Some want to erase the “traditional” Catholic from existence. Others want to erase Catholics who are concerned about the plight of the hungry, the thirsty, the prisoner and the immigrant, because these commitments contradict their favored political ideology.

At the root is a failure to recognize that the Church operates according to a different politics. Salvation is to be offered to each and every person. The Church is Christ’s Body, where each and every human being is to enter into the reign of God inaugurated by the Word made flesh.

What too many on Catholic Twitter and in the media fail to recognize is that the Church is not a political platform. It’s the salvation of men and women. This means our neighbor, our enemy; we all need salvation.

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The Church in the U.S. has forgotten her identity. We are not a bunch of “liberals” and “conservatives” fighting a battle for the soul of our particular position.

We are instead the Church of Jesus Christ, those baptized in the Lord. We are those who are offering our full humanity to the Father, through the Son, that it might become divine. We are one body. This is not a trite claim, a pleasant ditty sung from Gather hymnals.

It’s the heart of the Gospel. Christ has come for all.

Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D., is managing director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life.