Has anyone ever tried to convince you that love is just a feeling? If so, you’ve been lied to. The notion that love is just that warm feeling you get about a cute guy or girl is, in fact, the greatest lie ever told. If we begin to believe that love is purely emotional then we begin to lay a very disappointing foundation for the rest of our lives. Society, unfortunately, through its use of media (especially) has distorted our understanding of love and has gone on to convince us that love can be fleeting; only temporary. Think about it. How many times do marriages end because the two simply fell out of love? Or how about when two individuals have been hardwired to use one another for their own personal desires? We’ve been fooled into thinking that love is what makes us happy. We’ve been trained to view love in terms of what we get out of it.
Previously, I had written about the first precept of the Church. The first precept of the Church is actually quite simple to remember: Go to church! Primarily, I addressed the precept of attending mass regularly and precepts in general through the lens of being ‘rules of engagement’ that the Church imposes onto all Catholics. The conclusion we arrived at is that whether these rules take on a legalistic definition or are viewed as efficacious signs of our love for Christ and His Church depends significantly on us. Our relationship with Christ determines what our relationship will be with these rules. I wanted to clarify some imagery, as well, because going back I noticed that I used both the “Church-as-Mother” analogy then went on to employ the “Christ-and-Church-Spousal” analogy and that might have gotten confusing. Quick summary: Christ seeks to sanctify His Church, as a husband does (or should do) for his wife. However, within the Bride (the Church) there exists a unique dynamic that mirrors a mother & child relationship in that certain teachings and ‘rules’ have been established so that the Church might examine her own conscience. Overall, one could say that Christ seeks to make His bride holy but, she must be a willing participant in this journey as well.
It’s been said that church can be boring and that going to church is usually an hour that a person will never get back. Many of us have had feeling comparable to this relating to the mass. It certainly doesn’t help if the homily is lack-luster, the readings are long, and the music is off key. There are countless reasons that we can decide for ourselves that mass or just church in general isn’t worth our time. The question remains; however, what is it exactly that we’re going to church for anyways? If we’re walking in the doors because the preaching is good or because the music is on point then leaving when one of these areas suffers makes a bit more sense. What if I told you that neither of the aforementioned elements are the point of mass?
The idea of God having a mother is a relatively novel concept to me. Before joining the Church, my fundamentalist beliefs limited the realm of familial possibility to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And, of course, we are all God’s children in the spiritual sense but that was it. I guess the first and second person of the Trinity, the Father and the Son, might give way to the ability of God’s nature to be communicated to another. God having a mother is different; especially when His mother is a human. When we speak about the nature of God being communicated in such a way we err on the side of Greek mythology and that’s where we begin to lose people. Some might look at Jesus and compare him to the demigods that we’ve read about in school or in Marvel comic books. The truth about Jesus and his human family, more specifically: Jesus’ human mother, is a bit more involved than what we might think. The salvific plan of God took on a whole new meaning when God became man and the implications for us are quite significant.
Homosexuality is an issue that, still today, divides the Church. Many congregations and ecclesial movements are struggling to strike the balance between fidelity to the truth and ‘loving all people.’ Some groups have even come forward and stated that living the gay lifestyle isn’t sinful. I recall listening to a radio interview that Rob Bell (author of Love Wins) gave where he stated that the Christian family needed fidelity and not necessarily heterosexuality. Statements, such as the ones made by Rob Bell and the like, are undoubtedly spot on from a pastoral standpoint. The Church and all Christian movements need to open wide the doors to all people and meet them in the midst of their journey. But what about the theology? What is the objective truth concerning the topic of homosexuality? The primary question that remains is simple: Is Christianity changing its teaching?
Writing this post is going to hurt. In all honesty, it will border on hypocrisy due simply to the fact that I am not a perfect husband. I am immature, selfish, and tend to hold everyone to incredibly lofty standards… including my wife. In the most humble way possible I would like to acknowledge that I am a work in progress. Any improvements that I have made in loving my wife were not the result of my own, independent resolve but were, in fact, moments of personal conversion. Wait… what? Yeah, as cliché as this might sound (and as prevalent it might be in the Catholic blogosphere), I didn’t begin to make improvements in the ‘being married’ department until I began really taking my relationship with God seriously.
Being a person of faith has never been easy. More specifically, being a person whose faith is in Jesus has never been easy. Persecution has always been at the door of the Church attempting to tear her down and to shatter the hearts and minds of the faithful. For many, the pressure has proven too great and subsequently forced many believers down the path of conformity; the wide road.
Persecution, however, is not always the kind that directly attacks what we believe in a literal ‘convert or die’ sort of way. Sometimes persecution comes when certain social issues become the focal point of social and political debate and Christians are forced to take sides. Are we compassionate? Are we judgmental? Are we outdated? Are we relevant enough? Many questions plague the Church and cause believers to doubt; cause us to second guess ourselves. I’ve written a post before about the implications of being ‘on the wrong side of history’ which can be viewed either from an eternal vantage point of from the perspective of being culturally ‘correct’. Taking sides is the demand of the world on the Church today. Today the world is telling us to “Choose this day, whom you shall serve!”
A few months ago, I was at a friend’s house for a celebration of his college graduation. [I should provide some context in saying that my friend isn’t Catholic, so when I say Pastor I am not referring to a priest or any ordained member of the catholic clergy.] He was making the rounds, thanking everyone for coming, etc., and I was looking for familiar faces to chat with. I ended up speaking briefly with his pastor, a great and humble man who knows me from my days as a protestant (and as a former attendee of his congregation). So, naturally, we began to shoot the breeze and the conversation ventured towards topics of church and faith. I can’t quite recall how but, we reached a point where Pope Francis became the focal point of discussion. I noted how the new Catholic Pontiff was making quite a few positive connections, both within the Church and ecumenically. A statement was made that deeply puzzled me and effectively killed the conversation. This pastor said, “I don’t agree with [Pope Francis’] stand on homosexuality.” At that point, I just thought to myself… “Does he mean the Christian stance?”
One of the most commonly played sending forth hymns I hear at mass, at least in my home parish, is ‘Go Make a Difference’. It is a very catchy tune; one that brings about a third of the parishioners to some form of synchronized clapping. I wonder, though, has this particular hymn become something of a mindless habit rather than a call to action?
One of the most common hang-ups against the Catholic Church from an outside perspective is that it is “too ritualistic” or “too rehearsed”. Comments like these lead people to the idea that the Catholic way of worship is completely and utterly man-made. I used to be on the other side of the fence so I do have a bit of perspective to offer on this subject.
First off, it is the understanding of most evangelical Christians that the manner in which we worship should contain a certain degree of spontaneity. Is this spontaneity for its own sake? Not at all, in fact, spontaneity isn’t even the point of evangelical worship, although it is viewed as somewhat necessary. Whether you attend a “service”, a “mass” or the newly-termed “gathering,” the end by which you justify your means rests in the encounter. How might we encounter God? Much of the differences in worship that we find from denomination to denomination depends greatly on a particular group’s interpretation of Scripture. (p.s. Scriptural interpretation is not where we’re going, that’s another blog, or book, altogether…) Believe it or not, the Catholic liturgy is primarily concerned with an authentic encounter with God, as well.