Years ago, I visited a good friend of mine in San Diego, who is Roman Catholic. Tim took me to two Roman Catholic parishes with two very different perspectives. The contrast between those perspectives has affected me ever since.
On the one hand, he took me to the Church of the Immaculata on the University of San Diego campus. USD is an expensive private Catholic university, located in an upscale neighborhood of San Diego. At the front of the church was a stained glass window with an image of the risen Jesus extending his arms, blessing a naval warship on his left and a yacht on his right.
I felt a revulsion at the image, as it seemed to justify a focus on materialism or militarism. The church has been guilty for too long of seeking to religiously sanction cultural values, instead of letting our faith shape our culture and how we are called to be.
On the other hand, Tim also took me to Christ the King Catholic Community, located in a low-income neighborhood in San Diego. A statue of the risen Jesus stands outside the church. In the early 1980’s, vandals came and left the statue without any hands. The priest and the community made a decision to leave the statue as it was and added a sign beneath it: “I have no hands but yours.”
Two churches. Two visions. Which will we choose? Will we seek to force God to justify our values and our way of life? Or will we seek to allow God to transform our values and way of life?
Work for the food that endures for eternal life. God has not hands but yours.
God, I confess that I have kept you at a distance or sought to make you a presence that will not challenge my way of life. Transform me. Lead me to see your presence, be your presence, live your presence, in all that I do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.