Don’t Throw the Baby Out…
Many of my nearest and dearest friends have left the Catholic Church, either in rejection of its doctrine, or in pain from personal injury sustained by the ineptness or the “sins” of the leaders of the Church, or just from increasing realization that they no longer “get anything” out of continued attendance at Mass or from the Sacrament of Penance because they “feel” like they can’t continue to lie in the confessional or to avoid it altogether so as to be able to continue to participate in the holy Eucharist. To continue to be such a “practicing” Catholic is to them the kind of hypocrisy that even Jesus condemns. They at least do not apparently reject the teachings of Jesus, just those of the Church.
Other friends of mine reject the Church because they consider themselves to be agnostic [Do not know whether there is a God or not] or atheists [Know that there is no such being as God], and they consider Jesus to have been a genuine historical person, but not in any way to be considered God.
In the world today, people are saturated with media, much of it advertising some product or other which if one buys it, it will solve some or many of the problems of living. Either it will eliminate pain, or bring you success either in business or with the opposite sex or by affording comfort and security which everyone deserves. The media daily also bombards us with gory details of every act of violence occurring throughout the entire world with video. Most of the ads on the news are for upcoming stories on the news, so as to keep you from changing channels, or (God) forbid, turn off the TV and plunge yourself into one of the worst situations in which one can find oneself, silence and being solitary.
Money, food and drink, sex, lifestyle in comparison with others less fortunate have become the measuring stick for success in this life. Many of us never rest from the chase after such success, wearing ourselves out in the process and never realizing that life is not meant to be such a chase for “happiness” of that sort.
Some, when they get fired, or get seriously ill, or when tragedy strikes causing the loss of someone near and dear, they often begin to appreciate that we “can’t take it with us when we go”, or that we should take more care with each moment of time we have now, to be with and express our love to those closest to us, and perhaps to consider doing random acts of kindness for others in need. Some even consider changing their whole lives around by focusing on performing charitable works for hospitals, social services and through greater altruistic gifts.
Some even consider being priests, nuns, ministers, rabbis, or lay missionaries in service to their fellow man. Some just make a conversion of life and dedicate themselves to being better sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers in the vocation they have been in, but previously failed to appreciate their opportunities.
Whatever your situation, it might begin to dawn on you that your dedication to following the truths about which Jesus spoke should take precedence over your reluctance to follow the false witness of others by whom you may have been scarred in your past life experiences.
After all, one of the most common expressions put on the lips of Jesus by those who wrote the Gospels and Epistles, were words of disappointment in their failure “to get it.” So often they asked Jesus to show them a sign that he was who apparently they were expecting him to be. And repeatedly, he failed to give them a sign they could accept, but rather he spoke of things for which many considered him to be a nut. The history of the early Church was anything but a history of faithful disciples, but rather a history of repeated failures to get Jesus’ good news right. It’s understandable to get it wrong. What is unacceptable is to harden one’s disbelief into a rejection of Jesus’ good news.
And what exactly was Jesus’ “good news”? It is not really what we often consider to be the “good news”. We consider it to be the news about God becoming a human named Jesus and saving mankind from their sins through his entire life, death and Resurrection. In other words the entirety of Salvation History and the teachings of the Church.
Jesus’ “good news”, however, is not about himself and what he is doing, but rather about the Kingdom of God and where it is to be found. This is expressed to us in the first Gospel written, Mark, in the first words put on the lips of Jesus[Mk. 1:14-16]:
“(Jesus) came from Galilee proclaiming the good news from God saying ‘The present moment is the right time, change the way you think about reality for the Kingdom of God is within you. Believe this good news’ ”
As Paul said in one of his earliest letters (50’s AD):
“…for the Jews look for a sign, and the Gentiles look for wisdom but we proclaim Christ crucified; to the Jews a scandal and to the Gentiles folly.” (1Cor. 1:22-23)
Why should we, in the Twenty First Century AD, with all our current knowledge and sophistication believe such a statement of Jesus that the Kingdom of God is within us? Because Jesus told us to and I believe that Jesus does not lie! Reason and scientific knowledge cannot prove this, nor can any sign be made which will prove it to be true, no matter how hard even the Church may try to do so. It is solely because Jesus is a trustworthy witness.
Since I now believe his words to be true, I can proceed to accept his other teaching that when we pray we do not have to use a lot of words, nor make a lot of signs, but rather:
“ When you pray, enter into your private room and shut the door and pray to your father in secret.” (Mt. 6:6)
It’s only when you want to express to others anything about this interior kingdom and the importance of interiority of prayer are we forced to use words, i.e., “signs” to convey it. No matter how carefully you select the words to use, the transmission is hoppled by the need for conceptual understanding which generally demands an effort using imagery from 3-dimensions and time, and interiority, like God, is not capturable within three dimensions and time. Only in the Incarnation of God become a man is God captured thereby. But in so doing, Jesus is limited by three dimensions and time to express his reality. Thus he uses parables, miracles and human communication to convey his reality. For many, it fails to satisfy. If God truly dwells within us, then is not this the greatest treasure that any of us, and all of us, can possess.
Only belief satisfies. And Faith is a gift to pray for and be totally grateful for it when it has come.
Thus, focus on the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, that is the “baby”. Recognize that some of the examples (not all, thank God) and some of the teachings through Church history should be perhaps be taken “with a grain of salt” or perhaps sometimes as “bathwater”, and can be thrown out. The treasure remains within.