The Essential Role We Play as Catholics
There is an ancient principle taught by those we now recognize as saints. One of the greatest sources of evil in the world is Catholics not living their faith. Those words may sound shocking but if we truly look at them there is something we can learn from them.
Our role as Catholics is to live by the enlightened guidance of the Holy Spirit. Think of it this way: pretend we are scientists who understand reality and we are living in a society of people who do not know science. The people will be working out of an ignorance that will undermine their humanity. They need us to speak up so that they may deepen their existence. If we do not then they will live and die in their darkness.
If we do not live our faith then this principle exists in the world. Do you see all the difficulties we are going through in our country today. I would say that they rival the late 1960’s in the radical nature of trouble. Why is this going on? Part of it is the faith is not being lived.
Why is it not being lived? Look at what Jesus says in today’s Gospel. He calls us to live inspired by his guidance and wisdom. This is more than living a virtuous life, it is a life centered in prayer that leads us to live at a deeper level of wisdom than those who do not pray.
This is how he is our vine and we are his branches. The vine nourishes the branches. Without the vine, the branches die. The vine connects the branches to itself and each other. This becomes a model for the Church. We are united with Christ and through Christ united with each other.
What unites us to Christ? Daily transformative prayer
People say the Church does not have a strong voice in the world today. Why would that be? The answer is simple, we as the branches separated ourselves from Christ and we defined the role of being a Christian with doing good things.
However, Christ is calling us to be transformed to live a completely different vision to life than what we would do without Christ. This is the difference and this is what Jesus calls us to do. It’s not just to live a moral life, but a radically holy life. It is to live a life that enlightens others not just one that conforms to expectations.
If we are to be nourished by Christ then we need to be transformed by the one who challenged the movers and shakers of his society. Our Church at least here in the United States does not do this. We have let those who are not connected to the vine be the leaders while we remained silent. What is the fruit of this action. Well, Pope Leo XIII warned of the situations we are dealing with right now over one hundred thirty years ago. He said:
“We have but too much evidence of the value and result of a morality divorced from divine faith. How is it that, in spite of all the zeal for the welfare of the masses, nations are in such straits and even distress, and that the evil is daily on the increase? We are told that society is quite able to help itself; that it can flourish without the assistance of Christianity, and attain its end by its own unaided efforts. Public administrators prefer a purely secular system of government. All traces of the religion of our forefathers are daily disappearing from political life and administration. What blindness! Once the idea of the authority of God as the Judge of right and wrong is forgotten, law must necessarily lose its primary authority and justice must perish: and these are the two most powerful and most necessary bonds of society. Similarly, once the hope and expectation of eternal happiness is taken away, temporal goods will be greedily sought after. Every man will strive to secure the largest share for himself. Hence arise envy, jealousy, hatred. The consequences are conspiracy, anarchy, nihilism. There is neither peace abroad nor security at home. Public life is stained with crime.”1
What causes this? Divorcing morality from faith. You know, as long as we are trying to be good we will get to Heaven. No, we need to be deep in our faith and we get there only by prayer our faith and seeking Christ more deeply. Then we understand the truths to a deeper level and live them in ways to challenge society.
We don’t just do things because society says what is right and wrong, we do things because we understand not what is right and wrong as much as what is holy and unholy. We will find ourselves challenging our civil leaders and even our religious leaders to understand a truth that will set all free. That is what Jesus did. He lived to a deeper level of truth and taught that truth to his apostles.
Why are people not embracing our faith? because we stopped saying anything to them. We have allowed people teach secular values in the name of Christianity and as Pope Leo XIII warned that is disastrous. You hear it all the time even from so called traditional priests and bishops we must live a life of virtue. If you want to live a virtuous life follow the teachings of Ben Franklin. Jesus did not call us to a virtuous life but a prophetic one. You and I literally are called to live a life of holiness that is prophetic. It is impossible to do if we are not being nourished by the vine that is Christ. The Apostles did not start a program of living as nice people, they radically changed society. Most died martyrs because society fought against their change. However, the change could not be stopped, because it was rooted in the vine which is Christ
As we approach Pentecost in a few weeks. Let us begin to live a new life as Catholics starting here at St. Anthony parish determined to root ourselves more and more each day in Christ to grow our prophetic voices and be the branches to connect to the world to the vine.
1ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII ON JESUS CHRIST THE REDEEMER NOVEMBER 1, 1900 Carlen, C. (Ed.). (1990). The Papal Encyclicals: 1878–1903 (p. 471). Ypsilanti, MI: Pierian Press.