The oldest Christian Church, established by Christ Himself as per Biblical and historical accounts, is celebrating the Year of Faith, which of course aims for us Catholics to grow deeper in the love and service of God and neighbor. But why does not the average Catholic experience a faith-renewing Church, as we speak?
I have come up with a few reflections myself.
I was an active debater on religion on the Catholic side. But then I decided to be lie low, really low, and refrain from doing those debates, not because my cardiologist says that I should avoid too much and unnecessary stress if I want to live longer, but because I no longer see a good reason to offend other religions such as the Born Again Christians, Mormons, and the Iglesia ni Cristo.
Some would stand up to me and say that as the Apostles defended the Church in its formative years, and the Church Fathers and Saints did so in their times, I must do so, too. Fair point, but wouldn't it be better to tend to the spiritual needs of the brethren, answer their questions about their own Church, and pray and serve with them, rather than waste time debating with people and offending their beliefs, knowing that they would either change the course of the discussion in response to a good argument or attack you with ad hominems or ad ignorantiams? I would rather educate my brethren about their faith than do endless debates with both sides having bad feelings at the end of the day.
There had been a widespread statement on Facebook not too long ago which goes something like "The Church won't adjust to the people." What exactly does that mean? It may be taken as the Church won't let her moral principles become less firm, which implies that Catholics become more immoral as days pass by, a failure on the part of the Church. There also had been a homily delivered on one of the Sundays of Easter this year in my parish which had the line: "Whoever stands with the Church and her precepts shall be rewarded in the life to come. Those who don't will not get their reward. This is how we see who is faithful and who isn't," or something like that. But shouldn't we focus on making the people realize why they need to be faithful, in a manner worthy of delivering the Good News of the Lord? We declare in the Profession of the Faith that we believe in the Communion of Saints. We believe that Christ is the Good Shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine to look for the lost one. Let's live up to those beliefs.
I wanted to become a priest, and I am still praying for God to decide and work if He wants me to really become one; I'll just follow where He leads. And I believe that the priesthood is a vocation requiring of patience, endurance, humility, understanding, and faith. I believe that those who aspire to become priests must lead the people by example, and not whine endlessly on social media about the dysarthria or mere mispronunciation of people of the Angelic Salutation (the "Hail Mary"), brag about what they know about the Church, or announce how often they go to confession, among others. They must bring Christ closer to the people, not farther. They must show that Christ is a loving God, and loving Him should entail sacrifices, not making Him appear as a taskmaster with numerous rules to follow or else go to hell.
They must not also be self-righteous, thinking that they are the standard for faith or morality in a community. These people must bear in mind that pre-marital copulation does not necessarily mean excommunication: they should show that God works stronger than sin, and that His mercy encompasses all; that through Him, one can do anything because he is strengthened by God, even fighting sin.
Pope Francis also had his fair share of bashing and criticism, yes, from "devout" Catholics themselves. When he assumed office, there had been numerous questions on his policies, stands, and even on the pectoral cross he wears.
The papacy had come a long way since the Age of Kings in Europe. Now, the papal tiara is not worn anymore, the papal coronation has been replaced with a simple investiture, and if the Church is for the poor, she must be with the poor. The Church had made some serious mistakes in the past, and she tries to correct them, and do other good things to her children. His Holiness cannot do things on his own, we the Church should cooperate. One simple act would be to stop the discrimination between rich and poor inside the Church, and that could come a long, long way. When we have Christ, there is no rich and poor, for God does not look in to what material gifts you can give Him. It is on how you live your life in service to Him and to others which matter the most.
(To be continued)