Summary: In our quest to be One Church, we must show forth Goodness, Beauty, and Truth, especially to the young.
Thursday of the 7th Week of Easter 2015
Joy of the Gospel
It would not be disrespectful of St. Paul to point out that, even among his great works, he made some monumental personal blunders in his ministry. Last week we heard him trying to preach to the Athenians on a philosophical level. It fell flat among those superior-feeling eggheads of the various schools of philosophy. Paul was preaching the resurrection of the body to people who had no respect for the very physical nature of humanity. Today he tries to preach to a mixed congregation of Sadducees and Pharisees, but his upholding of the doctrine of the resurrection–his gateway to the kerygma about Jesus–infuriated one side and inflamed the other. He had to be rescued by the Roman soldiers to avoid being torn in half.
Our weak and sinful human nature is naturally suspicious of others, particularly when we belong to one political party and we know the other guy holds the opposite view. In that sense, we have made little progress in two thousand years. But the plan of the Father, the goal that Jesus sets for us, is Christian unity. We are supposed to love one another so effectively that we attract others to this communion. We are to be for the world a city set on the hill, a place where our beauty, goodness and truth are so apparent, so transparent, that people come to see why and how we love one another so well. That is particularly important for younger generations to see and experience.
As he writes of our need to evangelize, the Pope turns to ministry to the young. He says, ‘Young people often fail to find responses to their concerns, needs, problems and hurts in the usual structures. As adults, we find it hard to listen patiently to them, to appreciate their concerns and demands, and to speak to them in a language they can understand. For the same reason, our efforts in the field of education do not produce the results expected. The rise and growth of associations and movements mostly made up of young people can be seen as the work of the Holy Spirit, who blazes new trails to meet their expectations and their search for a deep spirituality and a more real sense of belonging. There remains a need, however, to ensure that these associations actively participate in the Church’s overall pastoral efforts.
‘Even if it is not always easy to approach young people, progress has been made in two
areas: the awareness that the entire community is called to evangelize and educate the young, and the urgent need for the young to exercise greater leadership. We should recognize that despite the present crisis of commitment and communal relationships, many young people are making common cause before the problems of our world and are taking up various forms of activism and volunteer work. Some take part in the life of the Church as members of service groups and various missionary initiatives in their own dioceses and in other places. How beautiful it is to see that young people are “street preachers” (callejeros de la fe), joyfully bringing Jesus to every street, every town square and every corner of the earth!’
Recently a national organization published a troubling survey: “In a massive survey of 35,000 Americans, the Pew Research Center found that 71% identified themselves as Christians. That number was dramatically down 2007, when a similar poll found 78% were Christians.
‘In the 2007 survey, Pew found 16% of respondents were not affiliated with any church. In the new study, conducted in 2014, that figure was 23%.
‘The Pew survey showed a decline in the US Catholic population, from 53 million to 51 million. But Pew analysts said that the actual decline in Catholic population may have been more modest than the survey figures indicated, and other experts told the Wall Street Journal that their own studies have not shown any decrease in the overall Catholic population.”
What is clear is that our efforts in the New Evangelization are not bearing fruit yet. I have my own theories. The Church doesn’t market itself well. If someone comes to any parish in this diocese, do they experience goodness, beauty and Truth? I’ll let you answer that, but in my sole area of expertise, sacred music, I can tell you that most of what I have seen is the opposite of beautiful. Some of it is hideous; most of it is mediocre. We have a long way to go, but it is my prayer that in my lifetime, the Holy Spirit will turn it around. Let’s make it our constant prayer that we be centers of goodness, beauty and truth, and that this be broadcast to a world in dire need of all three.