Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's a Mystery to Me

I think we should meditate more often — in our daily life, marked by problems and at times by dramatic situations — on the fact that believing in a Christian manner means my trusting abandonment to the profound meaning that sustains me and the world, that meaning that we are unable to give to each other but can only receive as a gift, and that is the foundation on which we can live without fear. And we must be able to proclaim this liberating and reassuring certainty of faith with words and show it by living our life as Christians.

However, we see around us every day that many remain indifferent or refuse to accept this proclamation. At the end of Mark’s Gospel we heard harsh words from the Risen One who says: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:16), loses himself. I would like to invite you to reflect on this.

General Audience, 24 October 2012

Reflection – The Pope is going to go on here in the audience to reflect himself on this reality of proclamation and rejection of the Gospel of Christ, but since he invites us to reflect on it ourselves, I thought I would stop here and do just that.

The wide-scale rejection of Christianity in the modern world is a deep mystery to me, I must say. I have never quite understood why so many people have turned away from the Christian faith, its practice, its beliefs. I suppose my own experience of Christianity, at least ever since I came to have a true apprehension of it around age 17 or so, has been so thoroughly positive, my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ and to really plunge into the demands and promises of the Gospel is so radiant and joyful even as it is far from easy and my fidelity to it far from perfect, that I find it difficult to connect with the popular image of the Church and Christianity that so many reject.

It seems to me that what so many people reject—harsh, censorious, hypocritical, joyless, boring, lifeless religion—is simply not the Gospel. Much of the apostasy of our day is not actually (I believe) an apostasy from the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the salvation it offers, but an apostasy from a bizarre caricature of that gospel, a parody Gospel which in fact is an anti-gospel, bad news all around for humanity.

Now I really don’t know where people get this anti-gospel from – that is the mystery to me. The parish life I grew up in was, perhaps, a little boring, the preaching not exactly stirring, the music rather tedious, and the parish life in general not exactly bursting with enthusiasm. But there was certainly no hellfire and brimstone or obsessing over sexual sin or any of the (frankly) ridiculous pictures of Catholicism the popular media like to project. Maybe some of that was true in an earlier era, but I am 46 years old, and I simply do not believe that very many people my age and younger were exposed to that kind of Catholicism.

The wide-scale rejection of faith in our day is mysterious to me. There is an entire generation now whose parents and perhaps even grand-parents were the ones who walked away from the church and from Christ, and for whom the whole thing is simply an utterly alien reality. Meanwhile this same generation are increasingly sub-literate, unlikely to have the attention span to even read (say) this short blog post. The new evangelization has deep challenges.

It seems to me that those of us who do believe and who do see the beauty and joy of Christianity need to reflect deeply on how to communicate this joy and beauty to the world. Social media, yes, but personal encounter more so. Reasoned explanations and elegant formulations, yes, but works of mercy and compassion more so.

Christianity and the Gospel are all about love—God’s passionate personal love for you and me and each human being, our entry into that mystery of love. We need to make love our focus, our priority, the main work to which we give our lives. Otherwise, people will simply never know who God is, and never know the fullness of life He is offering.
We have to do it. It is our job, and no one else can do it for us.