What does our bubble say about us?

I follow Christian Twitter from diverse sources, around pastoral, theological and church themes.  I notice that Irish Catholic Twitter is much about our bubble.  By this I don’t mean personal snippets of information about family and friends, I mean our ecclesial bubble.  Bishops tweet about Confirmations and pastoral visits.  They quote other bishops giving statements or mention the World Meeting of Families and now the Pope’s visit. Other Irish Catholic tweeters are for or against things which happen in the bubble of Irish or world Catholicism.  Photo’s appear of clerics dressed up as clerics performing church functions.  Saint days are observed.  Prayer is shared.  Tweeters from Catholic religious congregations tweet about the activities of their or other religious orders.  Feminist Catholics tweet about the role of women in the Church.

This is all fine.  It is natural for us all to share about our daily concerns.  (Tweeters from the Church of England are preoccupied with gin and trains alongside their ecclesial concerns!)  The thing to ask ourselves in our theological reflection is whether our daily concerns mirror our true aims for our Church or Christian mission.

In the context of our daily concerns Jesus tells us to strive first for the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33).  Do our daily concerns fall into the category of the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, or are they more easily found in the realm of ‘these things?’

I think the answer to this is ‘a bit of both.’  Would it be fair to take the Realm of God to be about the Beatitudes and the praxis of Jesus?  In this case our daily ecclesial concerns would be about the ‘least’ in the world; the oppressed, the grieving and the poor.  They would be about speaking truth to power and eschewing religious observance for its own sake.  Observing the life and death of Jesus we would be occupied with the sick and the excluded.   We would also be occupied with the issue of religious hypocrisy, especially where this places burdens on those without status or power.   We would be tweeting about how to develop spiritualities of surrender and resistance.

Our concerns would be less about how many people came to church and the niceties of receiving Holy Communion in the hand, than the provision of housing; the treatment of asylum seekers and the inclusion of all voices in the leadership of the Church.  If we are theologians we would struggle with the issues raised by theologies from the ‘other’ especially when they challenge our views where these are privileged.  If we are leaders of prayer and liturgy we would be occupied with making room for diverse expressions which reflect God’s fidelity to all God’s people.

These concerns are certainly present in in-Church concerns with Trócaire; the young people’s pre-synod gathering in Rome; the debate about women’s roles; liturgical events around healing and many other contexts.   It is, though, worth our while to reflect on how we spend our time and energy – often revealed in our social media contributions – and asking where the balance lies. As a Church we should might remind ourselves that the Realm of God is not the Church and is most truly found in the Church when we look beyond ourselves to the wider community we claim to serve.

Author: realmofsparks

Anne Francis is a Pastoral/Practical theologian and spiritual care practitioner. She has a Pastoral Supervision practice and is author of 'Called: Women in Ministry in Ireland.'

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