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

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.

 

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.

 

A tale of two priests

Has anyone read, 'A Tale of Two Priests'? One was the best of priests; the other was the worst of priests.

Both priests had received the Great Commission . But each priest executed his mission in a different way. One priest tended to look down at the behavior of the children of Adam and Eve. The other priest tended to look up at the nature of God. Note that it is impossible to look up and to look down at the same time.

The priest who tended to look down at our behvaior was into regulation. He acted like a king trying to rule us. He called us sinners. He said we were deviants who strayed from the moral code. We were guilty of non-compliance. Our behavior was intrinsiucally evil. He invited us to enter his Church so he could lecture us more on the vileness of our behavior. For our own good, he said, he continuously whacked our souls over the head until they were black, blue, battered, bruised and bleeding. He offered to be our tour guide as we explored the wretchedness of our souls.

The priest who tended to look up at the nature of God was into revelation. He claimed to be a witness who testified to the truth about God. He said his God continued to love us even though we tortured and killed him. He said his God was our God. He said our God gave us proof of the indestructibility and immensity of his love for us. The proof was given to us from the platform of the Cross. He said his proof was irrefutable. He said our God was head over heels in love with us despite the evil we did to him. He wanted us to go on a hunt for God in order to get to know him. He offered to be our tour guide as we explored the mystery, majesty and magnificence of God. He claimed the Holy Spirit was tugging at our souls and that the curious are following the tug back to its source. He asked if we were curious?

Which priest had the better appeal? The priest who looked down at us and focused on our behavior or the priest who looked up at God and focused on his nature? The priest who was obsessed with sin or the priest who was obsessed with God? Which is more important: regulation or revelation? What transforms saints into sinners: knowledge of the nature of God or a hectoring, browbeating priest?

What is the golden ratio? What percentage of our resources ought the Church devote to the regulation of our behavior and what percentage to the revelation of the nature of God? Upon what ratio do we allocate subject matter to the conversation?

 

Do we invest our limited resources more profitably in the tail or in the dog?

Have you ever tried to look up and down at the same time? It cannot be done. So, which do we do first? Which is the priority? What is more important? 1) to look up at God or 2) to look down at us? The choice is ours. We decide for ourselves the direction in which we look, up or down. Tell us. Are you an "up" Christian or a "down" Christian? What percentage of your total investment in Christianity do you put into looking up at God and his nature (Faith)? What percentage of your total investment in Christianity do you put into looking down at us and our behavior (Works)?

Works are the fruit of faith . The size of faith is measured by the size of works . Faith is the dog. Works are the tail. The dog wags the tail not vice versa. Faith is the cause. Works are the effect. Inspire faith and works will surely follow as the day follows the night. It is not reasonable to expect the children of Adam and Eve to behave as a Christian behaves until after they become a Christian. Therefore, which is the more important investment? 1) investing in "becoming a Christian" or 2) investing in "behaving as a Christian behaves"? Do we invest in the tail or the dog?

In the Church are two dueling camps. One camp is squarely behind regulation. The other camp is squarely behind revelation. Which is the priority?

We can try to become witnesses to the truth about God so we can testify about the sweetness of paradise based on first-hand knowledge of God, that is, personal intimacy and involvement with the Sacred Truth ourselves.

Or we can try to become kings who rule their neighbors - petty despots who use the royal scepter of sin to whack our souls over the head until they are black, blue, battered, bruised and bleeding.

You cannot be both. You cannot be witness and king .

In which direction do we look first? Up or down? Who do we want to become? Witnesses or kings? Which does the world need more and why?

Evangelization is akin to mountain climbing a sheer cliff. The best advice is, 'don't look down'.