This is a blog that I post to several times a week although not necessarily daily. These reflections are triggered by the scripture found in the lectionary used by many Christian denominations. While I am part of the Catholic tradition, these posts are not --or rarely--sectarian. I try to put myself in the space of a of Jesus Christ and listen to words that come to me as I read and pray the scriptures. Each post also includes a photograph. These rarely have any connection to the content of the post but are simply pleasing images that I capture as I make my pilgrimage through life.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Faith comes before Church

September 20 was the Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and St. Paul Chong Hasang and companions. They are part of a group of thousands of Christians who were tortured and martyred in Korea before the institution of religious freedom in 1887. The Korean church is particularly relevant to us today because it was a lay founded and sustained church for hundreds of years. The first Christians appeared in the 16th century as a result of baptisms by Japanese soldiers. This community of Christians continued to exist within the cultural fortress of Korea for 300 years before priests and missionaries began to enter. This more formal and visible form of the church led to these brutal persecutions.
Catholicism began with a small group of Koreans reading books smuggled into the country. For several decades this Catholicism existed and was vital. So much so that when priests arrived, they were astonished to find a flourishing church. This story makes us aware that the institutional church--as necessary as it might be--is not the true church. It is the underlying faith community of disciples of Jesus Christ the forms the church on which all the external forms and practices exist. Without this underlying reality, there cannot truly be a church.
How often did Jesus say, "You faith has saved you?" Or when he could not heal or perform wonders, he would say that the reason was lack of faith and belief. As important as the sacraments, including the Eucharist, are to the church, they do not exist apart from a community of faithful believers. With such a community, they exist even without the presence of an institutionalized structure with its special class of agents. We learn this from the story of St. Andrew Kim and St. Paul Chong.
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