This is the first question our Bishop Calvo asks us to answer for the Diocese of Reno Synod of next December: “How do people see us as a Church?” The first question is, “What is a church?” It comes from two Greek words, “Kyrie,” and “Oikos.” It is supposed to be the house of Kyrie, the Greek personal name for God. Most houses, “Oikos” have a father, a mother, and children. Our Father is God, and our mother is our Blessed Virgin. We are the children. Another way of seeing the metaphor is that God is Father, and the church is the “Bride of Christ.” “Why is it that all the world loves lovers, but nobody loves churchgoers, of any denomination?”
Another metaphor comes from church architecture and sacred art. St. Paul states in I Corinthians 13:12, “βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι' ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι.” “We see just as in a mirror in an enigma.” The Greek word is the Greek spelling of “Enigma.” An enigma is a riddle, a mystery nobody can or should claim to understand. We, as Roman Catholics, go out into the world with our painting of Rembrandt. We see other people, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Taoists, and atheists with their paintings of Picasso, Jacobsz, Matisse, Van der Haagen, Toutain-Dorbec, and Mary Abbott, and recognize similar great works of art.
We can and should go out into the world following Emmanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative, living our lives as if we would wish everything we do to be a universal law. We are proud of our faith and proud of our father. Rembrandt did produce some excellent art. People see church goers, Catholic and Protestant as being so certain of our faith, other works of art must all be counterfeit. Mark Twain wrote, “Man is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion--several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight.....”
In a Pew Study, Catholics answered less than half the questions in a religious knowledge study accurately. Only Mormons, Jews, and Atheists answered over half correctly. They had the highest percentage with 17 or more questions out of 32 answered correctly. If we do not know our own faith as well as our opponents, how can we expect to show them our faith? If our opponents know our Rembrandt better than we do, how can we sell them on Rembrandt?
We have Jesus Christ? Who is Jesus Christ? For too many Catholics, Jesus Christ is a piece of bread they eat on Sunday. He is not a particular person, a first century Jew who was born, lived, and died. Protestants are no better. Atheists outscored them too. For them, Jesus died on the cross. He was not a person, just something who died on a cross.
The church is the house of Kyrie. Kyrie is a very real father with a very real heritage, and a very real son who lived in the first century, within a much defined cultural context. We must learn that context, and put flesh upon the bones of that very real person. When we go out into the world, we can truly be lovers, going out into the world and telling that world about our beloved father. If they come to love our father too, they are welcome to join our family.
The one warning is that in the exchange, they will also show us their Picasso, or other artists. We must appreciate their works of art. Evangelism is about exchanging ideas. We can learn from other faiths as they learn from ours. When we engage the world this way, we will win people for Christ, and not before.