Sound the alarm! Arsonists have set our Church on fire. And, the hierarchy of the Church is asleep within it! While you sleep in your beds, our Church is burning. Forgive me. I have no choice. I cannot sit by and do nothing while I am seeing flames. My father was a fireman. What would he think if I did nothing? Exigency compels me to enter the Church to slap the hierarchy in the face to wake them from their slumber.
Here is the slap. Brace yourself.
The headlines are scary. The children of Adam and Eve are stampeding away from the Catholic Church. Fewer and fewer are going to Mass. None go to Confession. The only sacrament holding its own is the sacrament of extreme unction and this is so only because the dead do not have much of a choice. There are many scandals in the Catholic Church but none worse than the failure of its hierarchy, the new Moses, to lead the children of Adam and Eve in the new exodus on the escape route through the hostile desert of godlessness from slavery under the yoke of Pharaoh to freedom with God and their holy family in the promised land. The new Moses turns out to be quite a dud. The performance of the management of the Catholic Church is judged by the feet of the faithful. Their judgment suggests that the entire hierarchy ought to be sacked for mismanagement and incompetency.
Furthermore, some sanctimonious managers of the Church have the temerity to suggest that a smaller, purer Church may be a better Church. Such an Orwellian comment is a stratagem that twists the the truth, makes a virtue out of a necessity and tries to hide the abysmal failure under the whitewash of success (Matthew 23:27). These sanctimonious managers are so full of self-righteousness that they would dissimulate rather than admit failure.
Godlessness is a sinking ship. The Church is its crew. We are its passengers. The job of the Church is not to save the ship but to save the passengers. The job of the Church is to get all - not just some - of the children of Adam and Eve into the lifeboats and on their way to safety regardless of whether their status is saint or sinner, regardless of whether they are naughty or nice, and regardless of whether their thinking is 100% consubstantial or less than 100% consubstantial with the official thinking of the Catholic Church. Everybody gets rescued - no exceptions (2 Peter 3:9). The escape from godlessness to God is primary. Nothing else matters. Everything else is secondary. Anything that interferes is suspect. The Church is supposed to be grease for the wheels of the escape; instead, it has become an obstacle in its way. The Church is supposed to facilitate the escape; instead, it is filtering it. The Holy Spirit is still tugging at our souls and the curious are still driven to follow the tug to its source. However, the Church is getting in the way. It is now a bottleneck in the escape (Matthew 23:4). In these circumstances, the children of Adam and Eve go around it, over it, and under it to get back to their home in paradise with their God. Or worse. They stop seeking their God entirely.
I apologize for the slap in the face. I am a big fan of the Catholic Church. I seek close encounters with the living God at the Catholic holy places. The good done by the Catholic Church outweighs the bad by tons. I want the Catholic Church to succeed not fail. The world needs the Catholic Church. However, If the stampede of the children of Adam and Eve away from the Church does not suggest a change in its leadership, at least, the stampede ought to suggest a need for a change in its strategy. Insanity was defined as doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different result. The Catholic Church is in the grips of an insanity. The insanity must be brought to an end. Therefore, let me change modes and transform my criticism from caustic to constructive. Let me make a suggestion with regard to a change in strategy.
I have identified the problem that is spooking the children of Adam and Eve to stampede away from the Catholic Church. I also have identified a solution. And the solution I offer does not require any change in Church doctrine. It only requires a change in Church emphasis.
The problem and solution are best understood through the imagery of "a fork in the road".
"Where do you want to go?" the Cheshire cat asked Alice at the fork in the road. "I don't know" is Alice's reply. Like Alice, the Church is confused by the fork in the road.
Two roads fork from a common origin. Both forks are equally valid roads on which the Church can take us. Although it is possible for the Church to take us along both forks simultaneously, only the completion of the journey along the first fork makes the journey down the second fork palatable to us. The two roads are designed to be taken sequentially not simultaneously. The Church, however, is taking a simultaneous approach to the fork in the road instead of a sequential approach. This is why it is failing. It does not know how to handle the fork in the road.
Now that you have the framework of "the fork in the road" imagery in your mind, let us leave the generalities behind and talk specifics.
The Son of God paid us a visit for thirty-three years at and about the city of Jerusalem in a part of the world known as the Middle East more than two thousand years ago. The thirty-three year Visit is the origin of the fork in the road.
Thirty-three years is an infinitesimally thin slice of time in comparison to the thickness of eternity. Is it not a wonder that the impact of one man who occupied this infinitesimally thin slice of time so long ago and so far away is still so powerfully felt here and now in the present? But I digress.
Two roads fork off from the thirty-three year Visit. Let us give these roads names. Let us call the first road Revelation and the second road Regulation. Revelation and Regulation represent the two extrapolations that can be made from the thirty-three year Visit. We can extrapolate from the thirty-three year Visit to a code of conduct to govern the children of Adm and Eve as we make our escape from godlessness to God or we can extrapolate from the thirty-three year Visit to the details about the nature of God.
These are two very different though equally legitimate extrapolations.
Revelation is about the question, "What does this tell us about the nature of God?" Regulation is about the question, "What does this tell us about how we ought to behave?" Revelation is about the attributes of God. Regulation is about the official code of conduct of the Catholic Church.
Which fork in the road does the Church take? Regulation or Revelation? The contemporary Church emphasizes Regulation. And it is failing. To stop and reverse the failure, a change in emphasis is needed. The Church needs to emphasize Revelation before Regulation.
By emphasizing Regulation over Revelation, the children of Adam and Eve no longer know their God. God has become a stranger to us. Let this fact sink in. God has become a stranger to us.
The Church is making an assumption. The Church assumes that we, the children of Adam and Eve, know, understand and possess knowledge about the nature of God. Because of this assumption, the Church seldom travels down the fork in the road called Revelation. Listen to the sermons being made at Mass. They are all about how we are to behave. They are never about extrapolating from the thirty-three year Visit to the details about the nature of God. They all take the fork in the road called Regulation. The Church has stopped taking the children of Adam and Eve down the fork in the road called Revelation. The Church has stopped performing the first and most crucial step in helping us escape from godlessness to God: introducing us to God and God to us. Thus, God has become a stranger to us. We know longer know our God. The Church is acting based on a false assumption.
The Church no longer understands what it takes to achieve obedience to a code of conduct. It confuses the opening of the ear with the submission of the neck. It prefers the shortcut of omnipotence to the longer route of persuasion. The Church has forgotten what Milton said, "Who overcomes by force hath overcome but half his foe." We tend not to obey the stranger. Obedience arises only when the teacher loves the student and the student loves the teacher. Love opens the ear of the student to the instruction of the teacher. Without love, the ear of the student is closed. Obedience cannot be coerced. It is only won by love. Obedience, in the circumstance of love, does not make us slaves - obedience liberates us. However, obedience without love is a trap that the children of Adam and Eve have learned to avoid. Obedience without love is the obedience desired by the selfish dictator. Obedience with love is the obedience desired by the selfless parent.
The Church is not succeeding because it is going about its business without love. The Church can rub the noses of the children of Adam and Eve into its magesterium all it wants, but without love, rubbing our noses in it is doomed to fail and destined to backfire. Without love, the magesterium of the Church is nothing more than “a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). To rule us, the Church must first win our love [easier said than done] not to the Church but to the Son of God. Nothing less than winning our love will work. A catechesis of love must come before a catechesis of Regulation. No love; no obedience. It is that simple. Revelation before regulation. When love speaks, the children of Adam and Eve listen. Only when love speaks do the children of Adam and Eve listen.
So, where do we start? How do we solve the problem?
Isaiah told us where to start. Isaiah said that “the earth is full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea “ (Isaiah 11:9). Because the nations knew the love of God, they streamed to God for instruction (Isaiah 2:2-3). I don't see the nations streaming to the loveless Church for instruction. Do you? Therefore, to start, the Church must proclaim its knowledge of God. [See the post entitled, The Owner of the House is Back]. For more than two thousand years the Church has conducted expeditions exploring the mystery, majesty and magnificence of God. During its exploration, the Church has accumulated a vast treasure chest of knowledge of God. It must start sharing the treasure with us. Knowledge of God is honey for the bees. Its sweetness pulls the children of Adam and Eve through the door of paradise. The Church must once again introduce us to God and God to us. Show the bees the honey.
It is a process. There are no shortcuts. Unlike coffee, there is no such thing as an instant Catholic. It takes time to make a Catholic. We do not become Catholic overnight. A human being develops from a baby in the womb through other stages of life including infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. A similar framework of development takes place in the thinking of Catholics. A Catholic whose thinking is not quite up to speed with the thinking of the self-styled orthodox Catholics is still a Catholic for the same reason that a baby in the womb is still a human being.
Furthermore, It is erroneously thought that our thinking defines us as a Catholic. However, this is a canard. It is our seeking that defines us as a Catholic. We become Catholic feet first not head first. To be a Catholic is to go on Safari. Reading and thinking about going on Safari does not transform anyone into a Catholic. Only by seeking God at the holy places that define the escape route from godlessness to God do we become Catholic. At the holy places, God transforms us.
Like foolish children, Adam and Eve ran away from their home with God in paradise and took us with them into godlessness. Godlessness is not a nice place. To rescue us from godlessness, God established an escape route, defined it with holy places, made a map of them and entrusted the map to the Church. The escape from godlessness to God is primary. Nothing else matters. Everything else is secondary. Anything that interferes is suspect. God gave the Church a mission. The mission of the Church is to serve as the new Moses leading the new exodus from holy place to holy place on the escape route through the hostile desert of godlessness from slavery under the yoke of Pharaoh to freedom with God and their holy family in the promised land. Only by making our escape from holy place to holy place that define the escape route can we be sure that we are heading in the right direction. The movement of the new exodus from holy place to holy place forms the needle of the compass that always points to God.
At a holy place that defines the escape route, a close encounter with the living God takes place. At a holy place, we include God in our lives and God includes us in theirs. At a holy place, a connection is made between earth and heaven. Through the connection, the light of paradise illuminates the darkness of godlessness. No one walks away from a close encounter with the living God unchanged. No one walks away from a close encounter with the living God empty handed. The holy places are the jewels of a beautiful necklace that God set against and in contrast to the hostile desert of godlessness.
Examples of the holy places upon the earth at which close encounters with the living God take place are the Mass, Confession, the other sacraments, works of charity, acts of kindness, prayer especially the rosary, Eucharistic adoration, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, fasting, the gathering of two or more together in God's name, bible study, suffering, the hour of death, etc.
The sweetness of paradise is the engine that pulls the children of Adam and Eve through the entrance of paradise. The sourness of godlessness pushes them through the exit of godlessness. To induce the current of salvation to flow from godlessness to paradise, all that was needed was a conductor. The most Holy Trinity placed the Son of God between paradise and godlessness to open a pathway through which the current of salvation could flow. He is the bridge between paradise and godlessness. He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). Through the bloody wounds we opened in the body of Christ with lash, thorns, nails and spear, the current of salvation carries us into His loving embrace.
Because we live in godlessness, we experience the sourness of godlessness for ourselves. The experience is harsh but effective medicine that shatters the illusion that godlessness is a superior place in which to live than paradise. The sourness of godlessness proves to us that the serpent lied to Adam and Eve. The effectiveness of the medicine justifies its harshness. While harsh, the medicine is not cruel. The brevity of life takes cruelty away from the medicine. A lifetime is an infinitesimally thin slice of time compared to the thickness of eternity. It only seems longer than a thin slice to those trapped within it. Having experienced godlessness for ourselves, we will not repeat the mistake of Adam and Eve who abdicated paradise for godlessness after paradise had been delivered to them (as did a gaggle of angels led by Lucifer). Thanks to the harsh but effective medicine, we will not repeat their mistake. Like the prodigal son, we will not return to the pig sty. No way; no how. We will never return to the shit hole of godlessness after God delivers the gift of paradise to us. And the gift of paradise is coming. The kingdom of God is at hand. As soon as we are born again, the gift of paradise is ours. God plans to deliver the gift of paradise to us just as they delivered the gift of paradise to Adam and Eve. God will not be less generous with us than they were with them. Adam and Eve were the first beneficiaries of God’s love for us. They were not the last. God’s philanthropy did not end with Adam and Eve; God’s philanthropy began with them. This is good news of great joy - very good news for us indeed. Rejoice and be glad. Fear nothing. Because life is brief, it won't be long now. As Jesus said to Julian of Norwich, “...all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
But what is the sweetness of paradise and how do we get a taste of it? God gave us a taste of the sweetness of paradise during the thirty-three year Visit of the Son of God to us at and about the city of Jerusalem in a region of the earth known as the Middle East more than two thousand years ago.
Let me tell you about it. And, please, pass what I tell you on to your neighbors
At Bethlehem, God delivered into our hands a love note. Thirty three years later at Calvary, God gave us a guarantee that the love note was genuine. We tortured and killed the Son of God while He was human, alive, tender, vulnerable and our guest. If the love note were counterfeit, it would have faded as we tortured Him and died when we killed Him. But it did not. It survived. Rejoice! You have both a love note and a guarantee of its genuineness delivered from the hand of God into your hands. What else do you need? What more do you require?
The thirty-three year Visit was an apocalypse. It revealed the nature of God. The Visit tore in twain the veil that hid from us the nature of God. The thirty-three Visit told us many things about the nature of God. What do we learn about the nature of God from the thirty-three year Visit of the Son of God amongst us?
His birth spoke to the humility of God. The Son of God came amongst us not on a level above us as befits God but with us on the same level as us - as one of us - an equal to us in our humanity - a partner with us in our suffering. The Son of God rubbed elbows with us. They say He pitched His tent amongst us.
His miracles spoke to the kindness of God. He healed the sick and raised the dead. He was a friend to sinners.
His survival after we tortured and killed Him spoke to the omnipotence of God. Death, our greatest enemy, has no power over Him.
The survival of His love for us after we tortured and killed Him, however, tells us even more and takes us deeper into the mystery, majesty and magnificence of God. It reveals the very essence of divinity itself. It shows us that God is indestructible love for us.
Oh! Happy love!
This is the fork in the road that the Church must rediscover and take. The Church must proclaim not only the nature of God but the proof that God gave us that verifies their nature. God gave us the proof during the Son of God's thirty-three year Visit amongst us. Get the feet of the children of God moving from Catholic holy place to Catholic holy place. Let God do the work. Get the feet moving and the head must follow as Shakespeare said as surely as the night follows the day.
More Revelation; less Regulation.
Show the bees the honey.