Today we need to do a bit of contrastiness, but the main issue for the day is the proclamation of the gospel of Christ. It is easter Sunday. Over the weekend the History Channel is doing the usual “Real Jesus” stuff… which I avoid. One of the lads said it does not matter providing that the atoning death and resurrection are real, and that is not quite right.
It does matter what we think of Jesus, for he is God incarnate for a period on this world, and he is our example, he is our rule, and what he did mattered, as what we do matters.
For the duty of the Church is to preach the gospel to a world that would censor us.
34Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.36You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ — he is Lord of all.37That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.39We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
1So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
My favourite Papist is a hardcore Italian who regrets everything that happened in Vatican II. He noted that the number of Catholics dropped in South America, and is afraid that these people are going to hell. Since salvation is Christ’s not which side of the Tiber you are on, he should be less worried, or perhaps more so.
…the PuffPo people think the flock… flocks to the Evangelicals because of the pedophile priest scandal (if you are a pervert or his friend, it is absolutely taboo to mention the Church without the scandal) and because of the “solemn” Catholic masses as opposed to the “emotional, vibrant sermons” of the Evangelicals. If they had respectively said “vapid, childish, and stupid” and “with a recognisable Christian content” they would have gone nearer to reality; but this is the PuffPo, and reality isn’t much high in their list of priorities. They also imply that religion is something for the uneducated poor, as they point out that in Chile and Uruguay – the wealthiest Countries of the region – atheism apparently advances, or so they say, without mentioning data.
Still: the number is there. The Francis effect is… causing losses for Catholicism. Losses in a traditionally extremely catholic continent, and losses even after the hugely expensive and media-hyped exercise of last year’s World Youth Day.
Francis stinks of secularism from the black shoes up. He is a betrayal and a parody of what a Pope is supposed to be. More and more people throw away the baby together with the – admittedly: very dirty – bathwater and start going to Protestant services. I can well imagine many of them have no easy access to even a half decent mass, and have not heard a decent homily from a Catholic pulpit for a long time. No, wait: pulpit? Not many of those are used anymore, either.
And so the Church continues to shrink, and souls are put at risk of damnation, whilst Francis and his friends – some of them heterosexual; some of them Catholic; some of them actually not Marxist – keep having the time of their life.
Mundabor, it is not merely a Catholic problem. If Christ is proclaimed, the church will grow and we there will be rejoicing in heaven. When instead we turn to the issues of the world: have liturgies around global warming or the rights of women or make services too relevant (the code is ‘seeker friendly’) or preach prosperity and not the gospel we will fail, for our minds are not on the things of God.
And there are no exceptions. No church is immune from this corruption, and one has to watch for false teachers who mouth the creeds but have another agenda. I have seen the same issues in the reformed churches I hang around.
Binary: preach the gospel. Let the word speak to people. It will not be comfortable. Live. Or preach pretty lies, a narrative, be relevant and become dated, and dead.
For our world is fallen. This is Elizabeth Scalia, sitting in a New York Railway station, with a restorative stout, when suddenly, an epiphany. [Context: Merton is one of the monks from last century who is seen as a modern mystic by many Catholics, and John Paul was a Polish Pope].
I wouldn’t presume to say that anything was being communicated to me, but I nevertheless had a glimpse — or an overwhelming “sense” — of something. In that brief flash I knew that hovering over us, near us, within us, all about us, was an awful, unstoppable ache of love and sadness; a sense of “Oh, my people! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”
This ache of longing, reaching out; of be-longing unanswered, unfulfilled.
It lasted the merest second, and then all was normal; everyone was moving; the radio was blaring. But nothing has been right for me, since then. Nothing has been good. I have been weepy and restless and everything seems unsuitable to me.
This was not Merton’s wonderful, joy-filled sense of people gadding about, shining like the sun. This felt more like a gloaming; like the space between dark and light that, of an ordinary twilight vespers, can bring such a sense of comfort and completion. And yet, this moment contained a note of what I can only characterize as desolation. Unfulfilled be-longing. Oh, my people…
There is a story about Blessed John Paul II, that he was once discovered in his private chapel with his arms about the Tabernacle, crooning a song in Polish, as a mother might croon to a child. He looked up to his visitors with a distraught expression and said, “I don’t know how to comfort him!”
That is precisely what it felt like to me — as though I had one of my children in my arms, and he was inconsolable.
Nothing has been right, since that moment. I cannot be easy or simply go on as I have.
Today I have realized that I can no longer write about politics or political issues because they are superficial, transient and only partially attached to what is real; they are sinkholes of illusion meant to turn us away from the outreach of love that is the taproot of all that is reality — all that is genuine — and that is begging to be accepted. I wrote about politics yesterday and did it poorly because I hated it, and how it made me feel.
I don’t want to write about these theatrics anymore, and become complicit in the distraction; I don’t want to assist in leading people away from that pulsing affirmation I felt, “Oh, my people…”
I don’t want to abandon that bereft-seeming outreach of desolated love that I sensed in Penn Station — so much like a modern, subterranean Agony of Gethsemane. I can’t let it go and walk away from it, even though I know I am free to.
The purpose of the Church is to preach the gospel. When you are in the trenches, fighting battles — and at times losing, and grieving — one tends to forget that. There are political battles and moral stands we have to take, if we are to illuminate the evil in this day and preserve what is good in our society. But that flows from our main role. We are to proclaim the gospel, in our lives and in our words.
For this time is fallen, and this world is told instead it is progressing.