Last week in Part 1, I presented a synthesis of views from priests of my acquaintance (with some of my own idiom to be sure) offering a certain somber view of Church and world. At one of the side altars in the cathedral of my mind a monument is inscribed: "Even wisdom and understanding are useless unless guided and perfected by God's grace." I try to remember that as I hear opinions expressed, or as I express my own; just as I am aware that many may consider my mind a prie-dieu in a closet rather than a cathedral.
As was expressed in this space previously, its seems to me also that something is up in the Church that's difficult to define. I don't pretend to have a prophetic view, but I am something of an aficionado of current events. Considering those, I'm not prepared to say whether matters have been stirred by the evil one or his henchmen. However, confusion and disorder are not fruits of the Holy Spirit. While the Church always has considered herself human, meaning imperfect, it looks to me that conditions are more grave than could have been fostered by mere human fumbling.
I do know that many people of goodwill are working very hard and very prayerfully within the Church to unite the children of Adam and Eve with the heart and mind of God. They listen intently to what people are saying. They work indefatigably to respond. However much damage has been done to our collective sensibilities, our faith confirms that God's still in charge.
Perhaps the very struggles about us are God's winnowing fan, a call to choose sides. Far be it from me to take credit for all the evil in the world, or to accuse you of it. But I am responsible for my part in it, whether by complicity or complacency. Parents have a responsibility to teach their children; but children also are bound, at some point, to take the lessons to heart and to be obedient. I can’t stand on the fence with God. He said be holy.
It's hard to listen to prophetic voices recounting the dire circumstances of our times. Particularly nowadays, we want no part of anything “negative." Sometimes I think we believe more in the power of positive thinking than in the power of God. What's up is being "up." But if being “up" is just a smokescreen for my own secret sin, or a dead conscience, or an indifference to the needs of others; then being “up" is false and Godless and empty.
This point makes sense to me: If someone says something that offends me – shaking his finger, say, calling on sinners to repent while looking me in the eye – then one of two things is true. Either he's right or he's wrong. If my relationship with God is good, then what could unsettle me – even the perorations of some modern day John the Baptist. If, however, I'm too proud for words, and my terms with God are not good. Then perhaps I'd better heed what Jesus said: Watch out!
The Church is still the place to be, for all the faults of her own making and for the confusions abounding because of the enemy. It's better than the darkness outside or the fair-weather friendship of mammon. Inside there's still faith, there's still hope. There's still love. Yes, besides all the issues that vex our modern consciousness, the Church still teaches that the most important thing we can do is to love God.
My priest-friends from last week are right. No program is going to solve the problems that beset the Church. No program is an end in itself. But community activities just might help us to do the very thing the priests insist must happen: They may help us to pray, to repent, to get right with God.
If we were to look about one day soon and notice that, hey, people are praying, people are repenting and receiving the sacraments; they’re loving God and one another – if that were what were up, that would be okay, wouldn‘t it? Who knows, there may be some of that up right now. – T. R.
written by Thomas A. Russell
first published in the Lafayette Sunday Visitor on February 7th, 1988