By Fr. Rick Heilman:
I decided to post some thoughts I shared with someone in an email earlier today (plus a bit more). I think I am writing mostly just to take a look at some of these thoughts.
We live in such volatile times, wouldn’t you say? I find myself feeling I am making the greatest of risks simply teaching what the Church teaches. I believe virtually all priests sense these are volatile times too, and we struggle whether or not to set off any kind of explosion over any hot button issue.
Therefore, we are seeing an epidemic of “homiletic correctness” running rampant in our churches. It seems especially evident in the more visible preachers in the mega-churches who, by sheer numbers, are seen as a success. But Mother Teresa would say that God is not calling me to be successful, He is calling me to be faithful.
Nonetheless, we watch as many are gravitating to those churches that never seem to disappoint in delivering to our faithful their “Jesus Buzz,” while we (preachers) seem to be threatened: “don’t be a ‘Jesus Buzz-kill’ with any talk that might ask me to ‘re-think’ (metanoia) the way I am living or what I believe.'”
In other words, we have allowed our worship to become something that is hardly worship at all, as it is more closely bound to “works of the flesh.” St. Augustine asserts, “it is said that someone lives according to the flesh when he lives for himself.” Once we come to our houses of worship to “get something out of it” – to merely be entertained or seek new friendships – we have reduced that event to a base, feeding the flesh experience and moved what is meant to be sacred to the profane. This is not to say that a beautiful secondary effect of our worship won’t be occasional consolations and meeting wonderful people (before and after Mass), but we cannot define worship as thus, which seems to be the trend today.
At the same time, we (preachers) seem to be in the business of simply scratching the ears of our faithful: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3).
It seems we are living in those times as we are living in a “Culture of Correctness.” Virtually all of the notions counter to the Gospel are defended as being a part of an “evolution of thought.” The self-professed elites hold as sacred a modernized and up to date way of viewing things. In Italy this is referred to as “aggiornamento” (bringing up to date). Taken to its extreme (as it has), all rules, codes and laws can become obsolete at any given time (recognize another off-shoot of moral relativism here).
Not surprising, those ideologies that run contrary to the teachings of Christ and His Bride, the Church, are defended in a very non-Christ-like way, with personal attacks, vulgarity, false accusations and the like. The reason given for this kind of unfair, terrorist-like aggression toward those who oppose them is summed up in the old adage: “The end justifies the means.” In other words, there are no rules of fairness when it comes to defending the rights of … (fill in the blank … and, yes, include “women’s reproductive rights” here).
This compounds the pressure on spiritual leaders to either join ranks with the elites of the day, or back off lest ye be run over by them.
C.S. Lewis sees the present world as “Enemy-occupied territory.” Lewis beautifully summarizes the story of the Great King: “Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you may say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” A great sabotage; this is a great plan to take over the planet that rightly belongs to the King of Kings. This calls for activism in every sense of the word. We cannot remain silent in this world pretending that what will be will be.
So we must ask ourselves: Since when has the Gospel never been counter-cultural? Since when has there been a time when martyrs would not stand against the decaying moral trends of their times for the sake of the Gospel? And, wasn’t it Jesus Christ who chose the defenders of the faith for his crescendo of the Beatitudes? … “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5: 11-12).
How did we get here? Brett Favre was once asked how he became dependent on pain killers. His response was, “It had me before I knew it.” I believe the situation we are in today could be summed up in much the same way. As our society decayed all around, under the banner of progress, we simply accepted every small bite of this “progress” as it came along. Now that so many are indoctrinated into this “for the sake of progress” code, it now becomes very difficult to get the toothpaste back into the tube.
And the moral battlefield is bloody. For example, it is difficult for me to watch the abuse our courageous Bishop Morlino is taking from the secular media, as well as many of those who profess to be Catholic (even though they diametrically oppose many of the essential truths of the faith). I can imagine his prayer that might ask: “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done.”
I don’t get it quite as severe out here in the trenches, but I don’t know if I will ever cease to be surprised by the level of virulence from those who take issue with the teachings of the Church. Many, however, just head on down the road to a place that won’t be a “Jesus Buzz-kill” with any talk of actual discipleship that calls upon us to stand against such things as an unbridled culture of death.
Yes, these are volatile times, and we are tempted to win a popularity contest rather than win souls for Christ: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). While the term “world” here refers to those who have rejected the offer of a savior, these remain difficult words to hear from my Lord. Yet, in another way, these words call us to an exciting challenge that asks us if we are willing to put the Spirit of Truth ahead of any personal honors (ahem, Notre Dame).
Pope Benedict XVI has dedicated the coming year as the “Year of the Priest”, beginning on the Feast of the Sacred Heart (June 19, 2009). Please pray for all of your priests and bishops, and beg God to continue to send courageous men to lead our people to Jesus, the way, the truth and the life.