Rebuilding Our Church Part 2
By Fr. Robert J. Carr
©Catholic Online 2005
A friend told me the story several years ago about a man who left his parish. He did not feel comfortable because the priests challenged the parishioners on such things as homosexuality. The man left because he wanted to be in a parish where he felt comfortable. Unfortunately, I think that is one of the problems in our Church today, parishioners want a comfortable place to worship. There is nothing wrong with comfort, but we are not here to be comfortable; we are here to spread the word of the Gospel. That is a challenge.
JESUS: ON A MISSION
I often hear people tell me that we need to be "nice" like Jesus. Jesus was good; he was not nice. (See Matthew 15 as an example.) Yet, more importantly, Jesus was here on a mission and that mission involved total and complete self giving on a physical, mental, spiritual and emotional level. He focused on doing the will of the Father by working to fulfill the commands of Love of The Father and Love of His neighbor. Both fully human and fully Divine, Jesus is able to love us and redeem us in ways that no other can. That love and redemption is fulfilled through His death and resurrection. He calls us to follow him so that we may partake of this redemption and experience eternal life.
We are members of his body and, therefore, we must carry on his mission. That mission is a challenge, not a source of comfort. You and I are, as St. Francis would say, channels of God's peace. The more we are self-giving to God, the more He can teach us to be self-giving to others. We can then do His will. We are not here to be comforted as to comfort, to be healed as to heal.
COMPLACENCY KILLS THE SPIRIT
One thing that damaged our Church was a loss of a sense of that truth. We became complacent with being comfortable Americans in the Post Vatican II and Post World War II era. The more complacent we become, the less we testify to the truth and the less we do God's will.
Our mission is to testify and live Christ's truth, and nothing less. Yet, we do that as people of prayer and obedient to God's will and not our own. Some decry this, and even reject it, claiming that we can give God lip service and still be a Catholic. They believe that we can reject some Catholic teaching and still be Catholic. However that is simply not true. The more we embrace Catholic teaching, the stronger we are as Catholics. The stronger we are as Catholics, the more able we are to do God's will. The less we take Catholic teaching seriously, the less we can even guess what ultimately is God's will.
GOD DOES NOT MIND IF I DON'T CARE ABOUT HIM?????
How many Catholics will say that God does not mind if you do not go to Church every Sunday? That is not true. How do I know? God gives us two ultimate commandments: Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and Love your neighbor as yourself. If Sunday comes and you are not attending mass because you have more important things to do, then you presume on God's mercy. God is not loved with your whole being. Therefore, he is not able to give you the return he has for that love, which is Divine Wisdom.
Our obedience to God bears fruit not only in eternal life, but the wisdom of God renewing our mind. We develop a clearer vision for doing his will and a greater desire to joyfully do it. None of this happens if we have a cavalier attitude toward the commandments of God.
We all see a dismissive attitude of sin as being old fashioned and medieval. No, using leaches to cure disease is old fashioned and medieval. Seeking to live a virtuous life by rejecting sin and embracing the gospel is no more old-fashioned and medieval than using Archimedes' Principle
PRIDE: THE MOTHER OF ALL SINS
The greatest of sins is pride. Look at where pride is rampant. I am often quite critical of universities. This is not because I am anti-intellectual, I am not. It is because, there is too much sinful pride in universities, Catholic and otherwise. The minute I go down the street claiming that because I have a Masters of Divinity degree I am smarter than you are, I fit Socrates' definition of the fool. The truth is I am smarter than nobody. I am more educated than some, but we all have our intellectual gifts. What one does not have in educated intelligence, he may have in emotional intelligence, spiritual intelligence, ability to love and/or to be virtuous over and above my educated abilities. The arrogant self-focus and that act of dismissing others because they are not as educated as I am is the sin of pride. It is also the sin of the schismatic and the deceivers. We must humbly open ourselves to the wisdom of God, to joyfully do the work of God. God works through all the members of his community even and often especially those without a college degree.
We have become embarassed by virtue. God calls us to seek to the virtues. The need to understand or teach how to use a condom has no place in the life of one seeking to live our faith. We are called to set the pace and the standard of our society. We are after all the Salt of the Earth. If we set a standard among ourselves that is as low as the rest of the world, then we have become salt that loses its flavor and is good for nothing but to be trampled underfoot. The rest of the world may have a lower standard of virtuous living, but our Baptism precludes us from the being like rest of the world.
REBUILDING OUR FAITH LIVES
Our marriages need to be prayer based (that means both wife AND husband in prayer) to be joy filled. Our ministries must be prayer based to be strong and our action must be prayer based to be effective.
Priests must spend a minimum of forty five minutes and preferably one hour before the Blessed Sacrament daily. We need to be in prayerful, meditative and contemplative touch with our Lord in order to do His work well.
WINNERS GO TO CONFESSION, LOSERS GO TO . . .
The gift of the sacraments must be embraced in order for us to grow in holiness, joy, love and peace. This includes the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is here that we proclaim to God that we have not done as well as we could. We receive the grace to increase our efforts. There is little difference between the penitent admitting his faults in an attempt to do better, and the athlete admitting his failures in order to do better. Both involve a humble evaluation of a goal and success in attaining that goal. Reconciliation, however, also involves a method to evaluate our ability to reach that goal, with Christ as our manager, sponsor and coach.
We must stand out. We must make our parish communities filled with Joy. St. Paul tells us to Rejoice in the Lord always. That is a command. We need to do that individually, within our families and within our communities. Such joy based living is strengthening, uplifting and contagious. We do that by rejoicing in God at all times good and bad. We rejoice in good times, in thanksgiving and in bad times as an act of trust.
LIVING OUR FAITH ON A HEROIC LEVEL
Christ calls Catholics to bring His salvation where the world brings condemnation. Look at how many prisons have no Catholics bringing communion or even mass. This includes prisons inside of parish boundaries. How many Catholics are afraid to go into inner cities to change hearts and minds? How many are afraid to speak out to their school boards working against the Christian faith. How many are afraid to trust their finances to God and allow worldy ambition to choke their passionate love of Christ.
How many Catholic bloggers spend time bashing a minority of priests, but do nothing to support the good ones? They do not challenge their fellow lay and clergy Catholics to heroic levels of witness to the Gospel. However, they will encourage an attitude that makes all cynical and suspicious of every priest and Bishop. This is just what the worldly-minded want such bloggers to do in our Church. Yet, Paul calls us to outdo one another in holiness. Catholic Bloggers must outdo one another in helping us all to be a holy people. Uplifting spiritual reflections, hard hitting criticism of secular journalists who write ignorantly of our faith serve the Church more than encouraging children to run into the middle of the street everytime they see a priest. Trust me, after this crisis, it is very difficult for many good priests to feel comfortable around children and that is tragic.
Look at how many parents work two jobs to put their children through a Catholic school and think nothing of skipping mass. What are they teaching their children of what it means to be Catholic? Or for that matter on how to get a return on your spiritual investment?
Look at how many Catholics read horoscopes, and ask each other what their sign is? People ask me that question once; they never ask it again. Catholics do not believe in astrology, therefore they are not born under any sign except the Cross.
Being Catholic is not an ethnicity, an identity or something to outgrow. It is a vocation to be a witness to Christ. Our choice is daily whether or not we will be such a witness or whether we will be atheists who call themselves Catholics. We cannot be both.
We have a lot of work to do as Catholics. We need to get back to the basics. We need to get deep into prayer, bible study and the sacraments and fall in love with God all over again. We also need to reject all the secularism that has entered our community, our minds and our souls. We testify to God's truth, that is our vocation. We cannot do that if we are overcome with prideful secularism in a society desperately seeking holy, Catholic heroes.
Rev. Robert J. Carr is the author of Evolution, Faith and the Future of Catholicism published by Lulu and available at Amazon.com and other fine stores.
http://evolution.catholicismanew.org MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - Editor, 617 625-0029
Crisis, Holiness, Virtue, Medieval, Church
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