The Church and the Gathering of Nations

This weekend, Fr. Alan Ventura, who is from the Diocese of Zacatecoluca in El Salvador, will be celebrating Masses at this parish and describing the Church in El Salvador. We will take up a collection for our brothers and sisters in that country and offer our common prayers together. It is a majority Catholic country, with churches and religious symbols commonly displayed throughout the nation and the Church as often seen as an honest broker between different governmental and cultural factions. The 1980 martyrdom of Blessed Oscar Romero, a strong defender of human rights, along with the humble labor of many Catholics in the midst of a nation that is still troubled by gang violence and poverty, has preserved the great prestige of the Church in that land.

This opportunity to unify the efforts and prayers of the church in our lands presents a good occasion for discussing a great gift of the Catholic Church, namely, the fact that she, alone among institutions of this earth, gathers together people from all of the world, and all of time and space. The prophets and psalmists of the Old Covenant spoke of the gathering of nations from around the world in the new Jerusalem. See Is. 66:18-21; Haggai 2:7; Psalm 87. And, at Pentecost a first promise of that gathering was fulfilled as the people of many nations were gathered in Jerusalem and
heard the Gospel, with 3000 people from all over the known world coming into the Church that day. The Book of Revelation says that, at the end of all things, the best of every nation will be gathered into the eternal Jerusalem and their people will walk together by the light of the Lamb.

Of course, on earth, we do not yet see that unity of all nations, nor the peace among nations that Isaiah speaks of. For, as C.S. Lewis points out in his science fiction work That Hideous Strength, the history of every nation is a contest between two nations, the unique ideal that God sets forth for the people and the corruption that comes from sin and mere worldly vision. But in the Church we can see faithful Catholics striving to bring about a first promise of the vision of the prophets. When the faithful of many areas and nations join for common worship, when we cooperate together to build up the faith and charitable works, when we rejoice at the gifts given to the people of many lands and learn from them, we are fulfilling the words of the prophets and bringing forth what St. John Paul II called the New Pentecost, the first promise of the gathering of all nations in eternal glory.