Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Great Divide

From an email to a young person ...

We live in a time where the world is split in two.  

It's not so much Trump supporters vs. Trump haters.  It's people who think life has meaning vs. people are think it doesn't.  Those who think it doesn't have a variety of solutions to this problem, most of which entail imposing your own so-called meaning on life, while spending your time indulging your various appetites.  Because if life has no meaning, then there is no God, no sin, no virtue, no point to anything.  (Contraception illustrates that there is no point to anything, including sex.)  And what optimism we find in this camp of nihilists is the optimism that we can make the best of a terribly bleak and depressing situation.  Life is pointless, but let's go around being nice anyway.

The Catholic Church has been infected by this.  Most Catholics think of religion as a stopgap, as something you do to fill time or give yourself consolation, or as a way to get together with others, or as a way to express religious longings and desires, but as nothing more than that.  The problem is, this is the attitude of many priests and bishops and this is taught implicitly or expressly at many seminaries.  

Today a Catholic family told me the story of how they sponsored a talk at the seminary where the husband works.  They brought in a Catholic celebrity to give a talk, and he talked on the sinfulness of homosexual acts, and after the talk, he was confronted by a group of priests from the seminary, all of whom were furious with him and one of whom argued vehemently with him.  After the argument, the speaker asked for the priest's blessing, and as he blessed him, the priest said, "I absolve you of your sins" - meaning his sins of pointing out the wrongness of sodomy.  Imagine that.

When the reality of religion dies, what's left is a prop or an empty shell, or worse, a weapon to be used against others.  For many priests, the Church is something to shelter, protect and defend their perversions, and nothing more.  It's really that bad.  In fact, in some ways it's worse.

But there remain a few serious priests and bishops, faithful to Jesus and to what He teaches and leads us to.  But even if all clergy were to abandon the Faith, even if all our family and friends were to abandon the Faith, we must be true, for we know life has meaning, and that it's a meaning that's revealed to us, not a so-called meaning that we arbitrarily impose, and that the deepest truth of the meaning of life is revealed by Christ on the Cross.

And yet, in our own circles of Devout Catholics, we (quite naturally) develop a fortress mentality.  We are shocked at how most of the world is on the other side of this great divide.  Most of the culture around us is thoroughly atheist (people who believe life has no meaning must, whether they realize it or not, be atheists).  And we are stuck like the Catholic speaker, being berated by people we thought were with us, but who are actually against us - and who are even going so far as to abuse the sacraments in an attempt to defeat us.

And yet the fortress mentality is not good.  We must be on the offensive, not the defensive.  The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church (Mat. 16:18), and this image means that we must be attacking the gates of darkness and despair, not huddled in fear behind our own moats and drawbridges.  We must go out and actively love our neighbors, as an expression of our love of God.  

Because, you see, atheism is very painful.  It is unnatural.  It makes people unhappy, even though they think the sins they choose are fun and even though they clutch at them.  It goes against every fiber of our being, because we are made for God.

And so, in this day and age when it's so clunky out there, don't forget that everybody wants to love, everybody wants to be loved, and no one will see the face of God unless they see it through the things He has made - including us.  We must radiate His face.

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