Continuing from my previous post. Let me share that I am the poster child for the Catholic statistic that Fr. shared. I was baptized, went to reconciliation, had first communion, confirmation and then went AWOL for 50 years. My family was not religious and did not encourage me to go or not to go to church or synagogue or anything that was related to God. I grew up in the 60s and 70s we rebelled against everything traditional. The church is all about tradition so there you go– I was not going to be told what to do by someone in Rome who did nothing but tell us we were going to hell. Obviously, I had no clue what my faith was about–but by golly I sure did have an opinion based on other opinions and gross ignorance and arrogance. Not one thought was actually mine.
Fifty years go by and I return to the church.I experience nothing but kindness, warm welcomes. Lots of love. Spiritual growth starts to take place in leaps and bounds. I know, that I know that I belong here. Even though I struggle with doctrines and customs that go against my Jewish heritage (yeah, I’m Jewish too LOL). I still struggle with statues, and saints, prayers that are foreign to me and then, of course there is Jesus. I have to take Jesus on sheer faith–because deep down I am not fully surrendered to him and the thought that he is actually God. I have a lot in common with St. Thomas.
So, if this 50 year detour were to happen today, and I would return in the year 2067. Where would I go? Who would be here? How would I find my way back? A scary and sobering thought.
God knows me soooo well. When I become emotional over an issue, if I don’t take action, then the emotion, the sadness will usually go away in a few days and its business as usual. (I’m being painfully real). The following day is Sunday and I go to mass. The gospel reading is about seeds sown in different types of soil. I’ve heard this a kajillion times.
“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred- or sixty- or thirty-fold. Whoever has ears ought to hear” (Matt 13:3-9)
The homily is given by Deacon B who is going to be ordained priest in our diocese in 2018 as mentioned in my previous post. He shares his thoughts on the gospel (Below is a very abbreviated version).
- The birds take the seed=people who have chosen a path where they have opted out of redemption. They just don’t see the need for salvation and church and God. They hear the word but don’t relate to it at all and live a lawless life.
- Rocky ground= intellectual folks who believe that religion is really a nice tradition that the family should continue. Religion is mostly social obligation.They intellectually understand but they have no roots. God is easily explained away. Technology and science continue to advance and they see very little need for God. Their arrogance and trust in intellectual and technological things keeps them from God.
- Thorns (me in the present moment) You get it. You love and need God. But you allow the distractions of life and our current world to choke you. They are more enticing and fun as opposed to say, being a catechist which is hard work and often times you don’t get to see the harvest. Serving God is something that is done when it fits into my schedule.
- Rich soil (where I hope I’m headed) of course is being a part of Gods plans and growing.
- And the cherry on the cake is “Whoever has ears out to hear” Really God? In boxing that’s called a 1-2 punch.
Deacon B concluded: It doesn’t matter which seed you are. Wherever you are right now, what are you going to do about it? Today, right now choose where you want to grow.
I realized that all this time. I’ve been observing. Watching everyone and everything. Trying to intellectually understand. Not happy that things aren’t perfect. Not helping mind you. But for sure critiquing. Internally whining and complaining because things aren’t as I think they should be. Seriously how arrogant? It’s like I’m interviewing everyone in the church and the church itself for a coveted position in my life.
Time to stop the nonsense and get in the trenches with the rest of my fellow sojourners. The minute I chose to come back it stopped being about me and it became about God. The old game plan no longer works. If I’m sick of my own whining and complaining, then for sure God is too.
Can you imagine where we would be if Peter and James and all of the other apostles responded to Jesus the way I have? Peter: Well, Jesus why should I follow you? Can’t leave my job in peak season. I have a family too–what about them? Do you have a plan? Whats your itinerary? What role am I going to play.? What’s the cost and what’s the return? Can you just send me the PowerPoint and I’ll review later? Oy vey!!
The immediate answer for me is to just commit. Rearrange my life and schedule to accommodate God’s plan for me. And I will say yes to being a catechist.
Jeremiah 29:11 says: For I know the plans I have for you… If you want to prosper and have a future it’s YOU who has to get with HIS plan. He wrote the plan for us. It’s not about God endorsing my personal plan of action where there is abundance, wealth, prosperity, no pain, no sacrifice and once in a while I just hang out with him. That’s not even realistic. We don’t choose to follow God as an insurance policy against pain and suffering. If that were true, we would all follow God just to be free from hurt. Totally stunted thinking.
If we read chapter 29 of Jeremiah and cross reference it to Ezra 8. You will find that the Lord says this to Jeremiah because the Jews are in Babylonian captivity. The temple is destroyed and the inhabitants have been carried away to Babylon. God is reassuring everyone that it will be OK.
In Ezra chapter 7 & 8: after many delays and obstacles the temple will be rebuilt. The captives will begin to return to Jerusalem. The word God gave Jeremiah is coming true. Unfortunately, during the 70 years of captivity the Jews have assimilated into the Babylonian customs and culture, they hardly remember the law or their own customs. God is a memory of the old days. Many have intermarried and no longer qualify to serve in the temple as a priest. How the heck is this supposed to work? But here’s the thing, throughout the captivity Ezra who is a scribe (we might say another forerunner to the catechist) He was faithful and he knew what to do and how to restore the people as well as the temple.
10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.
Ezra was ready…We need to be ready too. They will all come back from Babylon.
Would God really allow his church to evaporate? Is that his plan? I find that hard to believe. Why would he come to earth and suffer as he did only to have it move into obscurity after 2000 some odd years? This does not make sense to me.
In the early church when there was no church as we know it today just followers of Jesus. The church grew out of houses and community and teaching and telling about Jesus. The Holy Spirit descended and everyone was on fire for the Lord. It was exciting and dangerous. Persecution everywhere.
The greater the threat of death and persecution the more people believed. Historically, the greatest church growth has always come after severe persecution. Now I don’t know if that’s where we are headed. Perhaps Jesus will return before we ever have to figure out the whole answer. I’m not a prophet to know the outcome.
Here’s what I do know. We have to study the word of God, understand our faith, be able to explain and in some cases defend our faith so that the faith may continue. The church may look different in the future. It may not be buildings and programs as we’ve been accustomed to. Who know how God will work out the detail? Frankly not our business.
My responsibility is to be the gatekeeper. Not to just to pass down a set of rules and customs, but to pass down the knowledge, the experience the relationship that each one of us has with the living God. To let the next generation of Catholics and all those that wandered and are wanting to come home know that they are welcome and that God loves them. That as humans we are not always successful. We may fail–but God is merciful and overflows with love and grace towards us. Everything is gonna be OK.
I will trust God for he has a plan. He took care of this issue before time began, That’s his job. Our job is to be ready like Ezra, respond like the disciples and daily show up ready to love and teach all the returnees and seekers.
I agree with Fr. T, if we continue on this same path without changes then we are headed back to the beginning of Christianity. If that how it goes then bring it on. It doesn’t matter. We need to be ready regardless of whether the church remains as we know it or changes completely into something different.
If anything that I’ve written has touched your heart, then I ask that you pray for the Holy Spirit to touch the hearts of the lukewarm, ignite the hearts that are cold and encourage all those who labor for him. Whether you are a priest or a working mom your mission field is all around you. I don’t think that there are any easy or quick solutions. I do know that God has a plan. He not only said it–he had Jeremiah write it down. The future of our church–His church is in his hands. We just need to trust Him, be faithful to Him and keep showing up for duty.