March 14, 2021 - The Fourth Sunday of Lent
Christendom and Apostolic Mission: Accepting Apostolic Mission
We continue this Lenten pastor column series on Christendom and Apostolic Mission, and this 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.
It is important for us to acknowledge the current climate in which we live. Whether by His active will or His passive will, the truth is that the Lord evidently has willed for us to be alive in this time and place. We receive from Him both the circumstances in which we are to live and the grace to engage our world as it is. And as we reflected upon last week, though the American culture once upon a time was amicable toward Christianity, that happy circumstance is ending. But even so, and it is not surprising: many American Catholics still have a Christendom mentality – a general attitude of “this, too, shall pass” as if we just need to wait out the storm and then “normal” will come back again. Such folks were raised in Christendom, such that the Christendom approach to how we “do church” is very deeply settled in. This inherited attitude, though understandable, is also disastrous from a strategic viewpoint. The rapid shift from a Christendom culture to what we have now has radically altered the strategic situation, and we simply have to face the facts that all institutional or ecclesiastical strategies that are effective for a Christendom culture will no longer work. “Business as usual,” “steady as she goes,” and “this is how we have always done it” now are just another way of managing decline.
The first step, therefore, in addressing temptation to cowardice and overcome fear of what we now face and how we will respond and engage is this: accept Apostolic Mission. When we do this, then we open ourselves to a God-given apostolic zeal, and wherever apostolic zeal and all of the accompanying apostolic strategies are operative, the results will be astonishing: there will be a rich harvest of conversions, most especially among the younger generations, even as miraculous as the “three thousand persons [who] were added that day” of the first Pentecost (Acts 2:41); we will see new ecclesial movements and religious communities being born, and other already in existence rediscovering their vitality; institutions will be founded or reformed; a deepening life of prayer and communal witness to the glorious majesty of God will arise. These are just some of the fruits of a faithful and intentional apostolicity.
That last fruit is particularly poignant: deepened life of prayer and communal witness. Pope Saint Paul VI proclaimed that “modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”
This starts with personal prayer. That sure sounds like a broken record! Homilies on prayer, adult faith formation videos on prayer, added opportunities for prayer in Eucharistic Adoration, and still
homilies on prayer – it is almost as if we are convinced that if we are not even praying, then we might as well pack it all up and go home. Simply going to church to check a box just is not going to suffice anymore. We need to be connected with God – daily, hourly,
– and that is prayer at its essence. When we are regularly,
, in connection with God, then we grow in virtue and are more confidently sojourning on the straight and narrow path leading to fullness of life, holiness, and sainthood. Strength in virtue and a Christ-focused confidence produce joy, and joy is attractive, and people around us will give us a second glance because we have it and they want it: that joy (and that peace) such as the world cannot possibly give but only God can give.
Next week, we will observe how the Apostles themselves managed to do so much with so little, given the reality that all they had to go on was their witness to Christ…and that was enough.
~ Fr. Lewis
on Saturday, March 13 at 2:00PM