3 Ways to Ensure the Church Won't Change the World
Excuse the satire of this headline, but I’m glad it got your attention. I’ve long admired those rare authors whose sharp wit and keen ability to appeal to the imagination opens us to new levels of understanding and perspective. If you haven’t read them already, C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters or G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy are good examples of this.
Now, I’m no Lewis or Chesterton, but for the purposes of this post, indulge me!
1. Don’t become friends with or spend too much time with non-Catholics.
If you want to be assured that God will not use you as an instrument of His peace and love, I recommend staying a safe distance away from people you deem unfit, unkempt and otherwise unorthodox. It’s okay to pity them, but be sure it doesn’t turn into real compassion because then you might have to actually get to know them--that’s where evangelization starts--and we can’t have that. Thank heavens we won’t be held accountable to love those that we never knew, right?
Darkness is not the opposite of light. It’s the absence of light. The lifestyle and ministry of Jesus was, in the eyes of his kin, crazy (Mark 3:21; John 7:5). In the eyes of the religious elite, Jesus was a “drunkard and a glutton, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 5:30, Luke 7:34). Somehow, the most religious and holy man to ever live had the ability to make broken people feel welcome in his presence. In addition to his misguidedly pious and zealous “friends”, Jesus shared his table with people we might describe as more than just a little sketchy – prostitutes, binge drinkers, potheads, IRS employees, gruff fishermen, ultra-right and left wingers, ambulance-chasing lawyers--the stereotypical dregs of society. In the economy of His Kingdom, He chose (and possibly still does) the weak to lead the strong and the foolish to confound the wise. Somehow, those relationships transformed the sinners who then transformed the world – not by saving people – but by loving them, just as Jesus commanded.
So, if you want to be sure you don’t experience this kind of ‘craziness,’ don’t pray about fostering relationships with people who look, think, and believe differently than you. And, in the rare case you happen to be in the company of the aforementioned, be sure to bring up such topics as politics, morality, or something otherwise intellectual in order to clearly draw those lines of separation from the get-go—just to be safe. Then, go home and thank God for all He has taught you and saved you from.
2. Confess the faith but don’t live it.
The Profession of Faith is my favorite part of the Mass. Whenever I find myself doubting who I am or questioning what I really believe, regardless of how I actually live, there it is, like a foundation I can stand on: “I believe in…”
One of the easiest ways to guarantee the Church will not change the world is to get everyone saying they believe one thing while they practice another. Obedience isn’t a very popular exercise today and hasn’t been for some time. The etymology of “obedience” comes from the Latin word oboedire which means “to listen.” Ironically, the etymology of the word “absurd” (absurdus) means “deaf” or “out of tune.” The Church is absurd or deaf when her members claim to adhere to some kind of cognitive or intellectual belief in the teachings of the Faith but deny those teachings in practice. Getting divorced, not tithing a portion of your income, not making time for the Sacraments, being ignorant of Scripture, and not helping care for poor women who make the courageous decision to give birth to their unwanted babies, are prime examples of this hypocrisy.
The Bible says “even the demons believe and shudder” (James 2:19). If you can pull the wool over the eyes of the body of Christ by convincing people they are not called to participate actively in the proclamation of the Word of God, the Sacraments, or Corporal works of mercy, then surely the Church will not move the world.
3. Wait for others to start new ministries within your local parish.
A quick glance across the landscape of Catholic parishes in the United States reveals a startling reality: There is a generation missing. Most 20-somethings have very few options when it comes to parishes filled with thriving young adult ministries or organized communities. This is what I like to refer to as “the Big Drift”. Statistics reveal this drift occurs between the ages of 18-27.
If this trend is to continue, the younger Church will need to be kept in the dark regarding the spiritual gifts they received in Baptism. They need to continue to look to the clergy to do everything and never discover that they, too, as the laity, are equipped and called to teach, to provide hospitality, to lead, to serve, and to organize. They will never realize that the local parish is the genius of the Catholic Church and that the same body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, the Lord, is actually present at each one! (And to think they’re following in the Protestants’ footsteps by church hopping and shopping to wherever the music or teaching is deemed best). The fewer young leaders willing to step up to serve, the less courage and confidence will be instilled into the minds of the other young adults in the parish, so they’ll sit quietly not wanting to create a stir, while their dreams and gifts lay dormant.
So, if you want to ensure the Church won’t change the world for Jesus Christ, then be sure not to read the hidden gem of John Paul II’s encyclicals, Christifideles Laici or “The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People,” which he wrote in 1988. This Church-shaking encyclical foretells the coming of the “age of the laity” that will later be understood to mean one of the “new methods” of the new evangelization.
How well do you relate with those outside the walls of faith? Are you welcoming? Are you inclusive? Is your speech seasoned with grace? How can we live more integrated lives when it comes to faith and practice? How may God want to use you in your local parish? Please share your comments for others to read.
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3 Ways to Ensure the Church Won't Change the World
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Since the pontificates of Pope Paul VI and John Paul II, the Roman Catholic Church has been commissioned to engage and embrace the world with God's message of love once more with ‘new methods, new ardor and new expression.’ It has come to be phrased, 'the new evangelization.'
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