Our Essential Mission
One fascinating movie that came out several years ago, and one the I recommend to you is Inception. It is not a religious movie, has nothing to do with our faith, but for our purposes, it can be a parable.
I hope I can explain this well but it is tricky science fiction.
Here we go:
The movie revolves around the science fiction concept of entering someone’s dreams so that you can plant an idea that will cross over into someone’s mind and become a goal they will pursue. In this case, to break up an energy empire.
When the subject wakes up the idea becomes his and he pursues it, completely unaware of the process to get the idea there.
The movie involves actions that take place in dreams, but the people seeking to plant the idea are always fighting what appears to be secret agents pursuing them trying to shoot them and kill them. These we learn are the mind’s defenses who see these people inside the dream as intruders and try to eliminate them like anti-bodies destroying viruses.
When I saw the movie, I realized that this scenario becomes a good parable for our Christian life.
Jesus is always talking about the difference between his disciples and the world. The world he teaches is that which leads away from the Kingdom of God. The Devil as we discussed in Lent states that all the kingdoms of the world are his and Jesus never refutes his assertion.
However, Jesus makes it clear that we are in the world, but we are not of the world. (cf John 17) Similar to the idea in the movie Inception. The world would never accept us. St. Paul calls us citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20) and ambassadors for that Kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Therefore, like in the movie inception, we can see ourselves as the intruders, trying to do something good, but we deal with the world that resists us. We can see in the Acts of the Apostles: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
Look carefully at that first reading and you will notice: Paul and Barnabas spoke those words to encourage the discouraged disciples at Lystra and Derbe. This is just after they suffered life threatening persecution nearby. He is letting them know that the suffering we go through because of the world’s rejection is part of what it means to be a Christian. It is through our difficulties that we grow closer to Christ and lead others to do the same.
It is no secret that we have been going through a hard time in the Church. In our annual convocation, the archdiocese acknowledged how much the priests in the Archdiocese are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress due to living through the crisis. I am sure many parishioners in the Archdiocese are discouraged as well, but how much does this speak of your faith that you come to encounter Christ in the Eucharist despite this painful time in the Church. It is a testament to the power of Christ and the reality that forces in and out of the Church seek to silence that power and reject the Church. St. Paul reminded us in Ephesians not to consider them human forces, but a spiritual force that wants to resist us. It manifests itself in the actions of the human. Pope Francis has acknowledged similar ideas recently.
Other organizations acknowledged that the same problem we have encountered in our Church is even more serious in their institutions. Even the Boston Globe acknowledged that the problem is more serious in virtually any other similar type organization, but of course the focus is specifically on the Catholic Church. This brings out two things to focus on, one how many people still come to Church seeking Christ and holiness. That speaks volume of the power of Christ’s grace despite the weakness of some of its members.
It also brings to focus such realities that since other Churches and institutions acknowledge an even more serious problem, no one focuses on them, only us. A good question is Why? because we are the Church the above mentioned forces want to silence.
What does this mean?
It means, that the God allows this to happen to us more intensely because the Church is being called to holiness by the Lord for a Holy Church is essential to the Lord.
St. John Chrysostom reminded his listeners that the Apostles rejoiced when they had to suffer for the Gospel, they rejoiced far more than they did when they did miracles, he pointed out.
Why is all this so important. It is essential because the apostles were sent out to preach the truth and we have the same mission. It is not only the truth of Christ, but everything we teach and believe as Catholics.
We are living in a unique time and our testament to the faith is us persevering despite suffering great resistance, but also our need to live our faith is greater now than any other time.
I have been doing some research and in doing so I discovered something that shocked me.
We are living in a time of the fruits of the enlightenment in a sense. The enlightenment began in the sixteenth century and continued actually through today. Its main focus is the belief that humanity through the development of reason can build a peaceful world. Some of the philosophies and ideas that we embrace in this country, specifically in the Declaration of Independence are Enlightenment philosophies. We look at the Enlightenment as being against Christianity and all religion and focusing more on reason. Thomas Jefferson was a son of the Enlightenment for example and today would have been a Unitarian. Thomas Paine would have been an atheist.
However, John Adams acknowledged that our country required a religious people to survive.
Atheism is an Enlightenment philosophy. Atheism as we know it is only about 200 years old and is traced back to a man named Fuerbach. Fuerbach taught Karl Marx.
Why is this important? The promise that the enlightenment offered failed. Recent studies found that at its core its great promise: equality, fraternity and liberty, only works on paper. In the real world it falls short and creates tyranny and worse, consistently.
Every disastrous political policy of the twentieth century, humanity’s bloodiest century, traces its genesis back to enlightenment philosophies.
Why does this happen, because humans cannot create the societies that the enlightenment promises.
Your presence in the Church testifies to a truth that is essential for all to know. Jesus did not just come to save all of humanity, but to save humanity from itself. Without Christ, humanity cannot build great societies but disastrous ones because the message of Christ is that humanity not only needs salvation, but it also needs to be saved from itself.
We do not have the ability within ourselves to create what the Enlightenment promises. If we do not live our faith, there is nothing to counter the false promises of the enlightenment.
As in the movie Inception, the world will always resist us and the forces Jesus and later Paul warned about seek only to silence us. But the world needs us living our faith, even if it resists what we stand for.
Paul and Barnabas were right we must undergo many trials before we enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Living your faith despite the forces within and without that seek to silence it, is the most loving act you can do for your neighbors.