Monday, July 23, 2018

The Fruit We Should Be Serving...

Early in his papacy, Pope Francis proclaimed the Year of Mercy from December 8th, 2015 to November 16,2016.  I’m wondering if he’d consider a Year of Mercy Part Two, because I’m not sure the first one took.

First, a confession.  I am a terrible sport in games.  I struggle with getting irritated when I play poorly, which makes me play even more poorly.  I get rattled, and I forget in those moments, I'm playing to play, not to win.  It is a source of constant frustration to me even if I'm swallowing it, because it robs me of the pleasure I sought from spending time with my family playing. I've prayed, confessed, wrestled with this most of my adult life.  I've read articles, I've tried to remain detached, and I've considered simply not playing to avoid temptation.  Instead, I've opted to have my family remind me over and over again when that particular demon flares up, "You're playing to play."  in one way or another.  Sometimes it involves stepping on my foot under the table.  I consider such steps, a good corrective mercy by them, which I deserve. 

So back to the issue that's bugging me today. 

Why hasn’t the New Evangelization worked?  

There’s loads of energy being spent on radio, online, newspapers, television, on evangelization and what isn’t being seen, is the building of community.  There are lots (Thank God) of individual conversions taking place, giving witness, but there isn’t a sense of a community being formed by all this work.  Our nation feels fractured and broken as never before, both inside and outside of the Church, which left me with a nagging question.

Why hasn’t the New Evangelization worked?  

People are writing. People are reading. People are praying. There are email chains of novenas and podcasts on scripture, blogs, videos, great lectures on the catechism, all at our fingertips. Where is the fruit? 

People are doing all these things and while there are moments, there is not a collective weight, a visible sign to the outside world of this internal reality of being the Body of Christ. In the same way, we all know there’s all this energy directed at serving the poor, providing for material needs in countless places, through soup kitchens and pantry programs, through shelters and job training and all the very good good things provided through the Church and her charities because people believe in the teachings of the Church, however, there is not a joy manifested to the world, only more need.   

In the same way, there are thousands of Catholic schools that provide education in both the academic and spiritual realm.  The community, on both a macro and micro level which should be the Body of Christ however, remains somehow, not fully engaged. 

Online, it's easy to stumble into places where people fight over what the Pope says, what the Pope means, and whether to follow him or fight him is the correct manifestation of living the faith.  Those same people cry out for the excommunication of those who disagree. 

There are fiefdoms within parishes, cliques, serious schisms between those who favor one ministry over another, and out and out hostility over issues both discreet (what type of music is played) and profound, (actual arguments about doctrine) which keep all of us from being Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  The fights in the parishes, online, and throughout the nation seem to go on without end, and with all the time, a dark joy from their perpetual spitting and spinning. The spirit of the age is distrust, deny, dismiss, and destroy, the very opposite of what Christ calls all of us to as individuals and as His body.  

My thoughts I thought perhaps too dark, so I turned to the scripture for the mass of the day.  On July 23, 2018 and the readings involved Micah, Chapter 6, Psalm 50 and from the Gospel, Matthew Chapter 12, versus 38-42 where Jesus says to the scribes and Pharisees, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the Prophet….”  

That didn’t help.
We know what doesn’t work; excessive focus on doctrine, excessive focus on service, excessive focus on art work, group projects, group prayer, individual prayer, one way, a thousand ways, ground up, top down, systemic scaffolding of instruction, everything we’ve tried. Despite all wanting theoretically to achieve the same thing through different means, we keep stepping on each other's toes. 

The only answer to the angry spirit of the age, is to be asking each other, to please step on our toes when we take too much of a lead.  The answer to my problem, humility. The answer to the bigger problem, is the same thing.  Offer Mercy.  Ask Forgiveness.  No quid pro quo.   Offer mercy everywhere there is anger.  Ask for forgiveness whether it is given or not.  These are the salves that will lead us to salvation.  They are the fruit we should be offering if we want the coming age to be one of something other than a nation of angry islands, all screaming for someone else to be punished.   

Elizabeth Scalia wrote at Word on Fire about The Anti-Christ Arriving in a World Without Mercy," and showed a picture of a wolf.  If we want a world not peopled by wolves, we must fight the Anti-Christ with the one thing the Devil cannot abide, love; love manifested in acts of mercy, and sublimation of ourselves.  

The early prophets all preached essentially the same thing, (however unwillingly at times), as the early apostles.  “Repent and believe.”   We must do the same thing.   It’s both a universal and individual call. 
Christ tells us, over and over again He is the way, the truth and the light. Come to Him ourselves, and invite others.

The question I think for many, is how do we do this?  How do we know we are doing it?  How do we know if we are engaged in true acts of service, true acts of generosity, truly doing little things with great love? 

Answer: If we stop trying to win.  If we stop trying to take credit.  If we stop trying to prove we’re right, or better, or more worthy or smarter or more informed or more whatever, and simply serve. Or, as I told my children to remind me, play to play. 

Put God first, trust God.  Put Christ first.  Trust Christ. Spend time with Christ, and Christ will order each of our souls so that eventually willingly, we will put ourselves last, so more people can encounter Christ.

I'm going to go ask my kids if they want to play a game with me.      

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the insights.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

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