Texte correspond en français : La normalité de la vie cultuelle dans l’Église
Normality is defined according to what everyone lives daily for his well-being. This is a balance in the existence of all for a life without incident.
Worship is a heart-to-heart relationship within a fellowship in addition to what it is toward God. A Sunday celebration as well as all the gatherings of a community life express it.
However, is this normality at all times, in every moment, or in all places?
It is not the first time the Church is challenged regarding its worship gatherings. Just think of these extraordinary events that obliged the Church to change its ‘’usual’’ celebrations: Epidemics of cholera, plague, or even persecution. The Church had to find ways to meet differently in forest, in caves and even to suspend the regular worship. More positively, when a new mission is developed, ordinary worshipping is abandoned to adapt to the new situation. The list can be long. As an example, the New Testament testifies of these practices when early Christians gathered in houses to continue the worship done in Synagogues that became obsolete (Acts 2:46 read also Romans 16:5a)
Then these words of Jesus Xrist resonate: ‘’For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20). In my view, this is the normality to understand without digitizing it. Why then say two or three? Could it not be more? The number does not matter here for Jesus talks more of a grouping quality than number per se. Indeed, the number two refers to the smallest number of people that can be brought together in a group. The number three is the one that increases it. Therefore, Jesus testifies of the quality of the group more than its size. This is not the size (minimum or increased) of the group that gives its quality, but the following words: ‘’there am I with them.’’ It must be understood that Jesus gives this much sought-after worship quality. This helps to accept with more ease the impediments to assembly that one may encounter during his lifetime.
Nevertheless, the problem encountered today is that we find ourselves alone, isolated, confined because of covid 19. Everyone normality has lost its balance; in short, it collapsed.
How then to regain this worship normality?
Jonas was the biblical man of extreme confinement. That man fled God. He was thrown overboard when at sea to calm down a storm that threatened to sink the boat in which he fled. He was then swallowed by a huge fish in whose belly he spent three days before he was released. Without making similarities with the why of the situation in which Jonas finds himself and ours today, it is no less interesting to observe an isolation of the most extreme. I will not discuss the probative literary value of the narrative. The Bible gives account that the event experienced by Jonah has caused him extreme anguish and psychological troubles. It is clearly written: ‘’In my distress’’ (Jonas 2:2) and also ‘’When my life was ebbing away’’ (Jonas 2:7). But the situation is peculiar that he turns to his Lord for his salvation.
This abnormal condition pushes him to find again his balance with God. This enables him to fully undergo the divine saving work (Jonas 2:9); this work which he knows is already underway to save even the repentant people in the world, outside the Judaic people of his time (Jonas 4:1,2) which is the reason why he fled in order not to obey God’s command: to make the divine word heard so that the inhabitant of Nineveh may repent.
Quite often we consider enemy anything that deviates from what we esteem to be normal. However, can we not conceive it otherwise?
This whole situation today leads us to re-examine the soundness of our lives, our relationship with other and with ourselves, and with God for some of us. Paul writes to the Corinthians: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you(1 Corinthians 6:19). These words tell that the bond between God and the world is not broken but secured by God himself. Each of the bodies is the temple of the Holy Spirit or has its potential, in this sense we have a force that impels us to seek ever more this relationship with God and to allow us to continue forward. Like Jonas who, in the belly of the fish, had the certainty he would see his God again (Jonas 2:4).
Celebration normality does not exist, or more exactly, it can be shaken and reformulated in another reality. Like the apostles who locked themselves in the upper room after Jesus died and was laid in the tomb, everyone finds himself isolated, locked up alone facing himself wondering what this means. And just as the Spirit of God breathed upon them to bring them out of the upper chamber into which they had locked themselves, so we too are always filled with the Holy Spirit in order to pursue and not give up. The technological means at our disposal allow us to connect to each other by pursuing this fraternal communion that seems broken. This technology pushes us to put in place all the means to continue the divine work: to make the voice of Jesus heard for the salvation of humanity. It is, therefore, a question of seizing all possible opportunities in order to pursue this fraternal communion, whatever form it may take while waiting for possible gatherings as we knew them before. And this does not mean to force anything on others but to make available to everyone the possibility to accept it or not. Thinking of those who cannot gather as we are accustomed, is a little like sharing the burden they carry – In some countries, religious gatherings are forbidden because they are contrary to the ideologies in power. However, we must not forget that ‘’The kingdom of heaven is near ‘’ (Matthew 10 :7). In this perspective, it is necessary to keep the vision of this immense gathering to come (Revelation 21:3).
Rethinking the Church means moving it forward. Moving it forward is to shake its known foundations. Shaking its foundation is to strengthen it. That was the case at the beginning of our era after the ascension of Jesus Xrist. God, through Jesus, intervenes in the world to shake the conceptions of the time and to change the way to spread the Gospel. This was the case over the centuries that followed throughout the history of humanity. This is still the case today. Our comfort, too often, undermines the divine intentions. Abnormalities, imbalances prevent us from satisfying ourselves of our status while forcing us to seek a reality; another adaptation to make the divine voice heard:
“I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” (Luke 4 :43)
‘’the kingdom of God is in your midst.’’ (Luke 17 :21)