A prayerful insight into building the Kingdom
While praying this morning, I had an insight into why it is important to be authentic & clear in our Christian faith - & it might sound completely obvious to you, but it was somewhat of a revelation to me in a really personal way. In some ways, this insight has been driven by a number of separate encounters I've had over the last day or so.
These are the "elements" of my insight if you like:
The first is the ongoing Vatican debacle and the confusion and pain I see everywhere caused by Pope Francis. The Keys have always been a completely unproblematic part of my faith up until this point when it seems Peter has abandoned Jesus and is not very clear about where he is actually going. Obviously there are a lot of things going on. Perhaps this tweet yesterday summed it up:
The US Bishops remain silent leading up to the election, rush to congratulate Biden before the results are finalised, and now express concern about his agenda? Is this some kind of joke?
The vast majority of bishops give poor example to society. They just do not seem to believe the Gospel & are instead preoccupied with temporal concerns. This is the message they send to people discerning the metaphysical maze of existence and therefore end up simply putting them off Catholicism completely. I know they turn my stomach living in luxury and worrying about diocesan finances and how they will pay for their French chef while doling out millions covering up after abusers. If the principle criteria for choosing bishops was holiness, would we be in this position?
Take Cardinal Sodano for example. Why? Well, because he has been ignored completely by the McCarrick
The second is a conversation with an older Catholic guy called Denis. Denis was trying to convince me of the creed of "kind". He said all you need is to be "kind", not judge, etc, etc. "Kindness is the greatest virtue" he said. You've heard it before. Denis is lovely, the sort of person it's hard not to like, he has a heart of gold and a love for people coupled with patience and, yes, inherent kindness which pours out of him through a beautiful smile. But when you talk to him you can sense that it is, to some extent, a bit of a façade, which drops if you challenge him. He gets a bit cross. He's angry that everyone can't just do what he says. He struggles to deal with the realities of violence that form part of every day life for a lot of people. Being kind doesn't get you very far when you're confronted by a mugger - or worse!
My contention with Denis was that "kindness" is not a virtue at all. It is a product of proper practice of the virtues. The four cardinal virtues (prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice) and three theological virtues (faith, hope, charity) take us to a place where it is easy to be "kind". If we don't build The Kingdom, we can't have "kindness", we'll just continue to sink into the swamp of human misery. Looking "kindly" at those drowning doesn't help them. If we are not challenging the status quo - if we don't believe The Kingdom is better, we are wasting our time, no matter how "kind" we are. And we have to be passionate about our faith: the theological virtues are more important than the secular virtues because they bring us closer to God. This is our ultimate goal in life, to live a life of love for God and to accept His blessings and love for us. We shouldn't be shy of God's love for us, or how He transforms us and blesses us.
The third is a video I watched during lunch yesterday which speaks from a Thomist perspective to the importance of having proper answers and making proper enquiries and the reasons why simple platitudeness answers to important questions do a disservice to the questioner. You might not know the answer, but you owe it to the inquirer to go on a quest for knowledge with them.
OK so here's the insight. As I consider society today from my own, very insular admittedly, perspective, I see a lot of problems that are spoken about a lot. Depression and suicide are at record levels. Everyone from teenagers to Movie Icons are looking for "meaning". That "meaning" I firmly believe, is there for them in Jesus Christ. Not just in an abstract sort of way - in a way that turning to Him, learning from Him, Living with Him, changes your attitudes, your outlook and your perspectives and makes live a great joy. I speak as a bereaved parent from a broken family who knows quite a bit about turmoil and heart ache in my private and professional life.
Despite my own experience (or controversially, perhaps because of my own experiences) I thank God every day for every day - for every drop of life, for every rain drop and sunbeam. For every smile and touch and word I exchange with the ones I love and care for. Whatever I am suffering at any particular moment, I have developed a habit of thanking God for the opportunity of each new day to deal with that situation and find a resolution to whatever challenge I am facing.
My insight is that if I truly believe this it is a profound gift. If I truly love my neighbour, I truly want them to know this hope and love and share it. I truly believe this can make their lives better and I truly believe this can make the world a better place. If I do not live out this conviction, if I do not tell others, if I am not willing to fight for that vision, what good am I to my brothers and sisters or to God?
This is my conviction and it is why I feel cross with those wicked servants who squander the talent the Lord has given them. Now we have every advantage: we have our freedom to preach and to show people that Christ's way is better and yet it is wasted. Obfuscated by people who think they know better than Christ.
Yet it remains "the great commission" and it is not an abstract or merely spiritual aspiration. It is something that has tremendous power to change lives in our own communities right here and now. So it matters that the faith we transmit is not confused, but the deposit of the Apostles, because capitulating to sin -- simply being kind to those mired in the swamp of the secular, broken society that surrounds us, is not going to change their experience of life and, if we love them, we owe them the truth.