29 January 2014

Modernity Strikes Again

I think a lot about Catholicism and the world: how the general population views the Church, how different or similar the two are, why the two seem in such opposition and how to remedy it somehow. Usually, it's random thoughts as I'm going throughout my day, sometimes coming from myself, sometimes a reaction to something someone else says (or assumes, most often, as I find myself wondering, "Do you have any idea what you're saying right now?").

Perhaps the most key aspect of the modern age that exaggerates this Catholicism vs The World battle (that stands out to me, anyway) is apathy. We are an apathetic people, quick to feel too guilty and uncomfortable for taking a stance that offends someone else when we're "caught in the act" of disagreeing (and completely losing any guilt when it comes to offending God). So the easiest, most comfortable thing to do is say, "Well, whatever. You're totally right." And sometimes it is the case that someone else is right, or they bring another perspective to the situation and they help you understand. But other times, no matter how much you'd like to keep up this friendliness you have going, what they're saying is in direct opposition of Church teaching. That should make you more uncomfortable than rocking the boat. The truth matters more than political correctness.

I came across an article through social media by someone who claimed to have re-examined Scripture and found a better interpretation of it that allowed him to still hold on to his faith while also supporting positions the Church does not (granted this guy is Protestant, so he isn't usually going out of his way to side with explicitly stated Catholic doctrine, but it is still a matter traditional Protestants agree with Catholics about. The point is: he is now denying the faith he professes). In reading it, I found myself laughing at the foolish way he seemed to say, "I realized I was wrong by following what my faith told me all of my life, but then I changed my mind completely and am still in good standing with my faith. Even though I contradicted it because I made my faith work for me instead."

The dangerous thing about interpreting Scripture for yourself is having the freedom to make t to say what you want it to say. This can be accidental or intentional, so that Scripture reinforces an incorrect opinion. You can convince yourself that thousands of theologians before you who handed down the Scriptures from the apostles themselves to your neat little verse-marked pocket-sized book simply had it all wrong and weren't with the times and would completely agree with you if they could only see the world as you see it now.

But then you've got yourself into another problem and that is the one of assuming that the world has changed so much and that it needs to be tackled differently by people of your faith. "With the state of the world the way it is, I just couldn't do x" and "I can't imagine how messed up the world is since x happens" is hardly an inspiring outlook nor is it an original one. Paul talked about the same broken world we see, but he didn't tell his brothers and sisters to just "get with the times."

From Galatians: "Now the works off the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God."

How much trouble have these works caused? How much have immodesty or fornication invaded the intimate bond of marriage, pulling people into despair or adultery? How much wrath and quarreling have we shown each other in our thoughts, words and deeds to the point of abandoning friends and family or of producing horrific acts of terrorism? How easy is it at times to give in to drunkenness or hooking up (as one of my favorite priests would colloquially say) or mere comfort to ignore the world because it easier than being brave and standing up for what we know is the truth, for being accountable to someone other than ourselves?

As we learn in John 10, it is the ones who persevere who will spend eternity with God. "Jesus said: 'My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish...'" This passage speaks of eternal life, but it is not granted to every person. Only the sheep who hear His voice and follow Him, who remain faithful and loyal to Him will be given eternal life. While Pope Francis' airplane interview is often quoted, how often do people forget the entire quotation: "If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?" What of the people who forge their own path, guided by the world instead of faith? What of the people who mislead others into thinking their faith really is about what the world wants, so they needn't do anything to preserve their own and win other souls? These people are not obedient to the Church. All their open-minded ideas will not earn them applause and shouts in Heaven: anyone who serves himself first will not see Heaven.

This is big bad scary business, isn't it? Oh, but it is. It really is when souls hang in the balance, when they are so close to the Evil One's grasp because they have been lied to, because they prefer their self-love over God's selfless love. No amount of complacency or fraternity with the world will buy one a ticket to Paradise. It will do the opposite. Their secular acceptance and admiration will last a fraction of a second compared to eternity.

Let us continue to pray for the Catholic Church in America, for conversion (of both Catholics and non, as appropriate) and abundant loving mercy of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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