Every day seems to bring some new instance of outrageous behavior: shoppers coughing on sales associates when asked to wear a mask, or on babies if their parents stand too close for comfort; "Karens" reporting minorities for non-existent crimes; protesters and counter-protesters hurling insults and other projectiles at each other; citizens hosting or attending crowded events without any form of social distancing; ethnic minorities being assaulted on the streets and on public transportation ... At times, it really seems as though there is a raging epidemic of pervasive madness in addition to the pandemic we are all enduring...
We might be shocked, we may even be amused, but sharing videos that have gone viral of people who have clearly lost control is not going to bring peace to this country. On the contrary, it simply perpetuates divisions and adds to all the intolerance. If we haven't already done so, now is the time to turn to the spiritual practices which keep us sane and centered. When those around us are "losing it," at least we will be able to practice self-restraint and even de-escalate confrontations. There are no "winners" when people scream obscenities at one another; by sharing their "viral videos," we also share in their shame.
PS Try my spiritual self-assessment tool!
After you take the Quiz, you will automatically receive a computer-generated diagram and explanatory comments regarding your strengths and "growing edges."
I hope you find the Quiz useful!
“A sower went out to sow, and as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
but when the sun rose, it was scorched, and withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, producing fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
MT 13: 1-9
Who are the "scattered seed" today? Those who have left their traditions of origin? Those who never had a tradition? Perhaps those have been alienated from their tradition? We are surrounded by the "unchurched," by the "a-religious," and by those openly hostile to religion. These "scattered seed" may have received poor religious formation or no formation at all; in many cases, this is a generational experience, starting with Gen X and affecting Millennials and iGen. More than likely, members of these generations can also point to experiences which validated their negative views of the Church. For some, the sex scandals and hierarchy cover-ups killed their faith; others encountered prejudice on account of their sexual orientation or saw their parents being discriminated against for being divorced; still others felt the church's views needed to progress with the times, especially regarding clericalism, birth control, homosexuality and the marginalizing of women. Sadly, all that these "scattered seed" know of the Church are the divisive issues that manifest in news headlines; when it comes to the Church's sacramental life, spiritual practices or rich tradition of social justice, they tend to be largely illiterate.
Also among us are Christians -- perhaps we ourselves--who continue to be faithful but whose hearts are heavy because of poor leadership and lack of vision on the part of the hierarchy. It is hard to hear "God's Word" when we cannot endure the mediocrity and lukewarm faith that so often manifest in parish liturgies -- the uninspiring homilies, the failure to address social issues, the rote prayers, lay apathy ... In his column in this week's
Cardinal Cupich states: "
Over the past few decades, we have seen a notable decline in the percentage of Catholics who attend Mass regularly. This trend has accelerated in recent years, and now only about 20% of Catholics attend Mass regularly."
This lack of attendance is not necessarily because Catholics have lost their faith, but because parishes are failing to fulfill their main mission:
to provide food for the soul!
All these "scattered seed" are the "lost and forsaken" whose voices need to be heard if the church is going to evolve from being a mere "institution" to mediating the Presence of the Cosmic Christ in the C 21st and beyond. The first step to engaging the alienated is to leave behind all the theological jargon and to understand their values, beliefs and experiences. Listening to the "backstories" in a non-judgmental way allows for a meaningful exchange. The Church's task is not to proselytize but to invite, not to provide answers but to stimulate conversation, not to impart facts but to encourage sharing on as deep a level as possible. Only then, when Church leaders have listened with the heart, without any preconceived agendas, will they learn what needs to change -- and this can only happen if they are willing to let go of what worked in the past so as to provide the spiritual solutions that are so desperately need right now!
- To what extent does the Sunday liturgy sustain you?
- Have you spoken to people from later generations as to why they don't attend Sunday Mass?
- Have any members of your faith community "disappeared" in recent months and do you know why?
- What changes would you like to see in your faith community?
- Have you ever "shopped around" to find a community that is more welcoming or more spiritually nurturing?
- How can YOU be part of the solution?