Wednesday, January 21, 2004

State of the Union of the Catholic Church

Perhaps I wrote about this last year or perhaps I was just thinking about it at five o'clock this morning and it seems like last year, but I couldn't help but think as I watched the President's State of the Union address last night about offering a similar critique of the state of the Church in this country.

We have undergone a severe crisis in the Church. It began with a breakdown of discipline that no longer saw any reason for that practice, almost forty years ago. I think the symbol of this was the lifting of the ban for Catholics of eating meat on Fridays, add to it the loss of ember days.

Quickly on the heals of this highly destructive symbolic act was a watered down Catechesis--that no longer present Jesus as the "way" but one of many ways. Jesus Christ literally became the "road less traveled" in rapid pace. His "way" was replaced with a cornocopia of new routes based on newly defined historical Christs--none of whom matched up all that well with the Jesus presented in the Gospels but pretty much matched the ideology of whoever was crafting these false Christs.

From the new catechesis flowed liturgy light, no longer really worship per se, but a friendly gathering in Joe Blow's living room with the latest pop music providing the background (those of you who are over forty will remember those days). Over time some of these liturgy experiments have faded into the winds of history but a true sense of worship of God, of communio, has only made a return in a few places. Like the agape feasts that Paul condemned in the nascient church, coffee and donuts are the feast that many look forward to receiving at the conclusion of Mass. I would even say that if there was anything to symbolize where liturgy has gone---it could be symbolized by a styrofoam coffee cup and a Krispy Kreme glazed donut--modern Catholics seem to think these are what have the ability to make us one rather than the Body and Blood of Christ. The horizonal nature of modern Catholic worship continues.

The Church should be one. There should be a unity of believers, united in Christ. Yet the modern church is as divided as the world it lives in. Perhaps it is because when the doors of the Church were opened to the world, the world came in and took over the Church. So we now live in a Church where ideology is worshiped more than God and division is tolerated rather than overcome in Christ Jesus.

How can this crisis be overcome?

First, by rediscovering Jesus. The Pope has recommended contemplating on the face of Christ with Mary in the rosary. I think this is an excellent practice. Focus on the "one thing necessary." What is necessary for the divisions that sever the Body of Christ--the Church to be healed? To be grafted to the vine---we are the branches, He is the Vine. Apart from Him we can do nothing. And this precisely is the problem, too many in the Church are doing everything apart from Christ , often in the name of a false Christ or ideology that they've made into a God. This applies to liberal and conservatives---the divider "diabolos" seeks to keep us weak.

Secondly, by living out the Gospel---embracing the mysterious power of Christ to overcome the world. God's ways are not our ways. Too many of us are trying to do it our way or the way we see it done in the world. This is not the Gospel message. Our Lord uses the weak and our weakness to show forth His power. "The Lord Himself will figh for you, you have only to be still," (Exodus 14:14), were the words Moses told the Israelites when there situation seemed hopeless. This is the level of faith that the Scriptures proclaim.