March 7, 2021 - The Third Sunday of Lent
Christendom and Apostolic Mission: What are they, and where are we?
Last Sunday’s bulletin began a pastor column series for Lent that hopefully will help us, as a parish, reflect upon the current state of the culture in which right now we, as the Mystical Body of Christ that is the Church, is made to live and go about our Christian mission of saving souls. Now, it is readily observable and it well can be argued that ours is a time and place currently in the flux of considerable change (one might even say “outright upheaval). In this instance, it seems that we are change from one general sort of cultural context to another. That from which we are changing is a cultural context that we might call “Christendom.” In Christendom, Christianity and the Christian worldview is firmly settled and established. But we are not that any longer; instead, we are shifting toward a different cultural context that we might call “Apostolic Mission.” In a Mission context, a Christian is very much like the Apostles themselves: having to proclaim the Gospel to a radically un-Christian (in our case,
-Christian) culture. This is Christianity on the march.
In Christendom, I can reasonably expect that I would be able to sit down with someone and have a conversation about Jesus Christ. Both of us would have at least a working knowledge of this man called “Jesus,” and both of us would at least be familiar with the Bible, if not actually read it or pray with it regularly. And even though I may or may not be successful in inspiring conversion in that person so that he or she is ready to become Catholic, I can reasonably expect that both of us would enjoy a polite and amicable conversation and would part as friends.
In Apostolic Mission (and I will say it plainly: in today’s culture), I cannot reasonably expect anything of the sort. Even the Name “Jesus” would be perceived by many as a “trigger word” that would spark indignation and outrage. Any hope for a polite and amicable conversation is gone, for the tendency on the part of the many is to become instantly aggressive (because they have chosen to become instantly defensive). There is not calm exchange of ideas but a shouting match…. And even amongst fellow Catholic Christians, while I can reasonably expect to speak of Jesus to them without instant indignation and outrage, I have no hope that I can expect the same if I were to mention such things as abortion, contraception, homosexual “marriage,” or any other controversial moral issue in our culture today. Even just to mention these issues here in this pastor column perhaps is sparking indignation and outrage in some of you who are reading this right now.
But that just proves the point: we are
in Christendom any longer. We are not yet in the full-blown Mission cultural context of the Apostles themselves, but we are quickly moving toward exactly that. Twenty years ago, homosexual “marriage” was not even a thing. Not even five years ago, transgenderism was not even a thing. At this break-neck pace of radical cultural change, one can scarcely even fathom what else will soon be upon us. For me, only one thing seems absolutely certain: regardless of what else will soon be upon us, it will be increasingly difficult simply to
a Christian, let alone actually daring to say the Name of “Jesus” out there in public. Soon, the only safe space for us who will actually
to remain Christian will be inside the home and inside the church. And when that happens, we must realize this, that the moment we leave the home or set foot outside the church after Mass, we are entering directly and immediately into mission territory.
This is alarming, no doubt about it. For some of us, it is outright terrifying. It will require the highest cost of discipleship simply in remaining Christian – and an even higher cost to dare go out there and speak to others about Jesus. And it is precisely because of this high cost – the High Call of Jesus Christ – that the great temptation in Apostolic Mission is not lukewarmness (that we might expect in a Christendom cultural context), but quite the opposite: cowardice. Cowardice in the form of sheer, paralyzing, crippling terror that life will get uncomfortable, maybe even outright hard for us…maybe even painful…and maybe even humiliating.
Next week, we will reflect upon how to address this temptation of cowardice, how we can overcome our fear, and through that how we can begin to discern how God might be calling us to do different things.
~ Fr. Lewis
on Saturday, March 6 at 2:00PM