March 28, 2021 - Palm Sunday The Passion of the Lord
Christendom and Apostolic Mission: To-Do for Institutions and Individuals
We continue this Lenten pastor column series on Christendom and Apostolic Mission, and this week, we reflect upon some specific applications of these matters for institutions of the Church as well as for individual members of the Church.
In an Apostolic Mission cultural context, Church institutions (from the universal Church at the level of the papacy in Vatican City to the domestic Church of the family at home, as well as the various institutions at every level in between: parishes, schools, and so forth) need to become more self-conscious about their mission, their aims, and their inner spirit. Leaders and other members of the various institutions need to know with greater clarity what they are doing, why they are doing it, what the likely consequences might be of taking certain courses of action, and how the inner culture of that institution is best sustained against the tide of the cultural shift. For example, the family; we all know, of course, that raising a Catholic family always has been a serious task, and in an apostolic mission culture, it is a full-blown missionary adventure: the parents are the Catholic missionaries, and their children are the souls who need to be won over for Jesus Christ. What parents do when they raise their children, therefore, and why and how they are doing it must be planned with great care, executed with exact precision, and deliberate every step of the way.
For each of us, as individual members of the Mystical Body of Christ (the Church, it is not enough anymore simply to go with the flow because the flow is totally against us, and if we are in a boat downstream of our destination and therefore are forced to row against the flow, then we have work to do! Living life properly ordered in a Jesus-focused manner is how we prevail in powering through the flow that is against us. We need to live life that is ordered toward a loving and humble obedience to the will of God, to counter the tendency toward pride and self-will…ordered toward chastity (according to our respective vocations) to counter the aggressive eroticization of the secular culture…ordered toward the spirit of poverty, detachment, to counter rampant greed and debasing consumerism…ordered toward community and friendship to counter isolation and a fragmentation of life in the modern world…ordered toward prayer, liturgy, and the spiritual realm so as to stay in contact with the most important aspects of reality…ordered toward simple austerity so as to fight the culture’s demands of comfort at all cost, which dampens the missionary zeal…ordered toward charity so that love will prevail. And the common thread through all of this is living lives ordered toward the profound joy of a life given for love of Jesus Christ and in imitation of Him, dedicated entirely to Him and in service to His Gospel and His Kingdom.
And yes, this is demanding, but in an apostolic mission cultural context, the Church actually needs to be
exacting of her members, not
. The expectations for us need to be
if we are to accomplish the will of God. Yet at the same, while the Church needs to be more demanding of
, the Church also needs to less demanding of those who are not yet genuinely her members. She cannot demand of those who are not authentically converted to the Catholic vision of living life. She cannot insist that they abide by the way she orders her own life or the life of her members. To expect those who are lukewarm or the totally uninitiated to live immediately like the Apostles themselves is to remain in a Christendom mode of thinking. It is to insist that everybody in society is Christian.
And so, the Church cannot insist upon this. Rather, her primary approach of engagement with an unbelieving world is not the imposition of law, but rather the invitation (in a spirt of hope and mercy) into a relationship with Christ and, in that, incorporation into the new humanity. She must invite the world into an entirely new way of thinking and seeing – a whole new way of being and living – which liberates the soul and fosters meaning, purpose, and joy.
Next week, we will conclude with a condensed Gospel presentation (yes, the
, once again), which encapsulates this whole new way of thinking, seeing, being, and living.
~ Fr. Lewis
on Tuesday, March 30 at 3:02PM