Our hymn of preparation at mass today was “The Church of Christ in Every Age.” Its first stanza does a great job of capturing the tension we face as an ancient faith guided by a living Spirit who is making all things new:
The Church of Christ in every age
beset by change but Spirit led
must claim and test its heritage
and keep on rising from the dead.
It’s helpful to remember that in every age the church has been “beset by change.” We are not the first ones to feel like the world around us is abandoning God’s truth. Galileo and Copernicus created a crisis for the church in their day. How could Joshua be telling the truth about God holding the sun in the same place in the sky for three days if the Earth revolves around the sun? It’s not always the case that what’s new is better, but it’s not always the case that it’s evil either.
If our church is led by a living, dynamic Holy Spirit who is constantly resurrecting us from the dead, then we should not imagine that our goal is to come to a conclusion about God’s truth. Even though we have been given a finite set of words that have been bound in leather and canonized, our discernment process is an ongoing relationship with an infinite Creator.
To say that God has nothing more to reveal to us is to deny the current, living existence of the Holy Spirit. And that is precisely what many Protestants do because of our need for certainty which is a concern for our control, not God’s authority. I think the Catholics have an advantage insofar as they recognize a heritage that needs to be both “claimed and tested.”
We need to “keep on rising from the dead.” Somehow we always find a way to clamp down on God’s living Word and make it into a dead idol. We are called to be God-wrestlers. We can neither leave our canon and our tradition behind nor can we be satisfied with any sense of finality about what has already been interpreted and discovered. There is always more resurrection to be had.