I’m wondering why so many of my fellow Catholics are getting so grumpy. So much quarreling, backbiting, petty quarrels and quibbles about thing theological or liturgical or biblical or moral.
Put on the brakes. Sometimes I get that way too, but I’m sorry when I do and I don’t really like it when things go down hill.
Here’s maybe the problem. Conservative Catholics feel beleaguered. They don’t like Pope Francis or Fr Spadaro or Cardinal Marx or Kasper or the others. Big whoop. You don’t like some of your fellow Catholics. Guess what, they don’t like you either.
So maybe I reckon the reason this happens is that we have all, or at least too many of us, taken our eye off the ball BIG TIME.
I mean let’s all stop and take a deep breath and ask ourselves what it is all about really anyway.
Surely the church, that’s us, if we’re the body of Christ are supposed to do on the earth today what Jesus did when he was here.
The problem is, we forget what he really did when he was here and we start imagining that he did on earth when he was here what we would have done if we were him.
Here’s a list of things we would have done if we were him:
- We would make sure everybody obeys all the rules. 100%. 100% of the time, and if they didn’t they would be excommunicated, ostracized, kicked out, punished and spanked.
- We would make the world a better place. We would take money from the rich people and give it to the poor. We would stop injustice and bring peace to the world.
- We would dialogue with the enemy and seek compromise so that our people could live in peace. We would accommodate the powerful and the wealthy and turn the religion into a palatable religion of being nice and respectable so that no one would be offended
- We would withdraw into a snug, smug, spiritual religious community where everyone was pure and spiritual and kind and good all the time.
- We would study to understand all the wisdom of the world, get the theories right, understand the prophecies and have all knowledge so that we might be right all the time.
The fact of the matter is, Jesus didn’t come to do all that stuff. He came to do something else. Here’s his list:
- He came to forgive sins
- He came to take authority over sin and the devil
- He came to heal the sick of body, mind and spirit
- He came to teach the Truth and be the Truth Incarnate
- He came to show us how to be One with the Father.
As long as we seek to do what he did we don’t fight among ourselves, we don’t get sidetracked into our own agenda.
But if we do take our eye off the ball, and forget his list, then we start quarreling among ourselves because we have contradictory aims and objectives because the person who wants to have everyone obey all the rules all the time will not agree with the person who wants to compromise and be accommodating to help people and the person who wants to get all the fact straight and be right all the time will fall out with the person who just wants to help people and let the rules slide. The person who wants to be active and change the world will dislike the person who wants to withdraw from the world and pray and be spiritual all the time.
When this happens we start into the blame game–pointing the finger at other Catholics as the bad ones, the wrong ones, the heretical ones, the immoral ones, and whenever we get going in the blame cycle we’re on the wrong track because when we blame others we automatically put ourselves on the pride pedestal.
We insist that WE are right and the others are WRONG!
Whoops. Big time major error in the spiritual life. Whenever I find myself blaming other people for being wrong I’m making myself right and therefore better than them and I am guilty of pride big time–and the more I do not see my own pride the more deeply set it is within me, and that is a very bad and very frightening thought.
Does this mean we don’t criticize or point out error? No. That’s required sometimes, but the error we should point out is always the error of taking our eye off the ball, and the criticism should always begin by looking in the mirror. Beam out of our own eye before attempting eye surgery on our neighbor.
The next trap we fall into is getting ourselves all worked up and judgmental about things we can do nothing about. Grumble and be grumpy about this heretical liberal or that neurotic conservative. Grumble and get grumpy and point the finger at the other guy because that always makes us feel better.
The maddening thing about this is that in these ways we so often take our eye off the ball and use Christ’s religion for precisely the wrong thing. He wants us to do what he did: heal the sick, forgive sins, be Truth alive in the world, battle with evil and be One with the Father. To do this is a great and arduous adventure so we cop out and choose the easier things –which are in the first list of five.
You see, it is easier to be legalistic and obey all the rules all the time. It is easier to try to make the world a better place. It is easier to be nice and inoffensive. It is easier to withdraw into a snug spiritual cocoon. It is easier to study to attain all wisdom and knowledge.
If, however, we did Jesus’ list of five we would find peace. We would find unity amongst ourselves, our churches would be dynamic and alive and we wouldn’t have to have yet more conferences and seminars about evangelization.
The world would simply be evangelized because we were being Christ alive in the world–which is what we were supposed to be doing from the get go.