Our Pack is our Church
Fools pass through the Valley of Tears without God and alone (Deuteronomy 31:17). The wise pass through it with God and in a pack. Our pack is our Church.
Participation is the Domain of the Church; Transformation is God’s
Participation in the escape through the Valley of Tears - and only participation - transforms sinners into saints. We do not transform ourselves. The Church does not transform us. Only God transforms us and he does so at the holy places that define the escape route through the Valley of Tears from slavery under the yoke of Pharaoh to freedom with God and his Holy Family in the promised land.
Each of Us is the Pilot of our own Soul
Each of us must be the pilot of our own soul. We cannot subcontract the job to another. We cannot delegate it. No one else can do it for us not even our Church. It cannot be done vicariously. Seeking God is a unique, idiosyncratic, personal experience. There is no substitute for going through it. Why? In the process of seeking God, God transforms us. Unless we do it ourselves, we cannot be transformed.
What is the Best Way to Fill the Gap in Our Knowledge of God?
Is it better for the Church to figure it out for us or for us to figure it out for ourselves? Shall the Church spoon feed us as if we were infants or shall we feed ourselves as adults? Do we benefit when the Church puts the puzzle together for us or when we are given the pieces and we put them together ourselves? Should the Church be the tour guide who points out the sights to see along the way as we explore the mystery, majesty and magnificence of God for ourselves or shall the Church explore the sights to see for us on our behalf and expect us to live vicariously through the Church?
The Moment of Discovery
The moment that we discover that God is head over heals in love with us is the moment of our reconfiguration. Each of us must be the pilot of our own soul. We cannot subcontract the job to another. We cannot delegate it. No one else can do it for us not even our Church. It cannot be done vicariously. Seeking God is a unique, idiosyncratic, personal experience. There is no substitute for going through it. Why? In the process of seeking God, God transforms us. Unless we do it ourselves, we cannot be transformed. The Church can put us in the position to make the discovery but it cannot make the discovery for us. We must make the discovery for ourselves. The job of the Church is limited. The job of the Church is to transform settlers into pilgrim. The job of God is to transform sinners into saints. Participation not transformation is the job of the Church. The work of salvation goes off the rails when the Church tries to do God’s job. The moment of discovery is a moment shared by us and our God not a moment shared by us and our Church.
God Promised Us that the Gates of Hell Shall not Prevail Against His Church. How can He be so sure?
"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). How can God be so sure? God baptizes us in the toxic truth of the Valley of Tears. He lets us stew there like pickles in a barrel of toxic brine. The Valley of Tears (Hail Holy Queen) is as foul as Eden was fair - as hostile as Eden was hospitable. As we pass through the Valley of Tears, we eat the bread of adversity and drink the water of affliction (Isaiah 30:20-22). The rod is not spared on the children of Adam and Eve in the Valley of Tears. Spare the rod and spoil the children (Proverbs 13:24) (Hebrews 12:5-11). When the gift of paradise is delivered to us - and its delivery is ineluctable - we shall keep it. We will not fumble the ball. The prodigal son is never going to return to the pig sty. Neither will we. And for the same reasons. Having put our fingers into the flames for ourselves, we now know with great certainty that the fire is hot. Rational creatures flee from the heat of the flames. It is against our self-interest to do otherwise. It is crazy to do otherwise. God can be so sure that the gates of hell will not prevail against his Church because he made us rational creatures. Rationality steers the ship.
Doing the Business of Christianity
Our time, energy and resources are limited. What is the best way to spend them? Do we spend them gossiping over the politics of Christianity? Or do we spend them doing the business of Christianity? The time is ripe for us to do the business of Christianity.
Extirpating Politics from Religion
Religion is going extinct like the Dodo bird (Wikipedia) because politics have corrupted it. An imbalance exists between religion and politics. More politics is being done than religion. Religions are falling apart because they do politics more than they do religion. It was recently reported that 1/3 of Canada’s churches are closing within 10 years (Crux article by Michael Swan dated Mar 29, 2019 from the Catholic News Service). Christians are abandoning the Christian ship in droves. We are playing politics, like Nero, while Rome burns. It is time to divorce politics and religion. There are too much politics in religion. There are too many religious people doing politics thinking it is religion. Our resources are limited. The more of our resources we spend on doing politics, the less we have left for doing religion. Politics has distracted us from religion. We have a "sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal" problem (1 Corinthians 13:1) We are no longer focused on changing hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. Our focus is no longer on inflating deflated hearts with love. Jesus, our God who fashioned us out of the dust with his hands, put himself into the hands of the dust to plant the seed of love into the dust. He wants to watch the seed of love produce fruit.
Feedback makes a person better at what they do. After action reports are part of the learning process. Feedback is the flint that sharpens the knife. Yet, clerics, in general, bristle at feedback from the laity. Their clericalism makes them think that they are perfect and in no need of feedback. They know more than we do. Have you ever wondered why a homily is a monologue and not a dialogue? Have you ever wondered why the Church has never adopted a formal mechanism of feedback from the laity? Our value to the Church can be measured by how much the Church values our feedback.
The greatest defect in the Church today is not the clerical abuse crisis and its cover-up. It is not gender discrimination in its clergy. These are bad but not the worst. The greatest defect in the Church today is that the Church is a monologue not a dialogue about God. The aristocracy of the Church disdains the peasantry of the Church. We are not in this thing together. In the eyes of the clerical aristocracy, good information only flows downhill from them at the top of the Church to us at the bottom not vice-versa. Pope Pius X hit the nail on the head about how the Church looks down its haughty nose at the sheep when he said: "... the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.” (VEHEMENTER NOS.). "The laity should, as all Christians, promptly accept in Christian obedience decisions of their spiritual shepherds, since they are representatives of Christ as well as teachers and rulers in the Church" (Par. 37 Lumen gentium.). ‘My way or the highway’ is a fitting motto for the clerical aristocracy of the Church. We, in the pews, are children who, according to a Church steeped in clericalism, ought to be seen but not heard. "A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of a sheep”, Tywin Lannister said. The ear of the clerical aristocracy does not hear the voice of the sheep. The greatest defect in the Church is the absence of a formal method of feedback from the laity to the clergy and the absence of a formal forum where the laity’s concerns, objections or dissent are seriously addressed and discussed. To participate in the Church, it is no longer enough for the laity to ride the coattails of the clergy. We need a voice. The Church needs to stop being a monologue and start being a dialogue - officially.
Raising Children into Adults
God wants us to grow up into mature Christian adults who stand on their own two feet. The Church wants us to stay children dependent on it and under its thumb. Christianity, to the Church, is a trivial child’s game. The Church gives us crayons and a coloring book whose drawings are divided into parts and numbered. It admonishes us to follow the numbers, to color within the lines or go to hell.
King versus Witness
God did not crown the Church as king to rule us. Indeed, God gave the Church a job. Indeed, the Church's job is important. The job of the Church, however, is not the job of a king but the job of a witness. God anointed the Church as witness to reveal the truth to us. A king tells us how to behave. A witness tells us about God. Revelation, not regulation, is the primary mission and first priority of the Church. The two jobs are as different as night and day. A witness is not a king; a king, not a witness.
Furthermore, God did not put into the hands of the Church the royal scepter of sin to whack our souls over the head in a wicked frenzy until they are black, blue, battered, bruised and bleeding. The instrument that God put into the hands of the Church to do its job as prophet was the sledgehammer of truth. The sledgehammer of truth shatters the illusions conjured up by the serpent as the blow of the hammer shatters glass.