In the first reading at today's Mass we read from Saint Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians: "For our Gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction. You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake." (1st Thessalonians 1:5)
Saint Paul didn't simply preach the Gospel: "For our Gospel did not come to you in word alone". Rather, he lived the Gospel: "but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction."
Saint Paul was conscious of his lifestyle. He was conscious of his witness, for he writes today: "You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake." He was aware of what sort of person he was. Saint Paul was a man of conviction.
Saint Paul has much to teach many modern day American Catholics. Stay with me here. In his recent best-seller, Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter, author Fr. Michael White writes: "Unbeknownst to us, what we were dealing with was a consumer culture. We didn’t understand what that was. Consumer culture arose out of industrialization, urbanization, and the emergence of general literacy. It’s great if you’re a retail establishment making money from it. It’s not so great if you’re a church. In fact, consumer culture erodes the sustainability of church communities because it allows the congregant to assume the posture of shallow commitment and the attitude of ceaseless demands. Author Rodney Clapp puts it this way: 'The consumer is schooled in insatiability. He or she is never to be satisfied, at least not for long. The consumer is taught that persons consist basically of unmet needs that can be requited by commodified goods and experiences. Accordingly, the consumer should think first and foremost of himself or herself and meeting his or her felt needs.'"
We have a consumer culture within American Catholicism. In fact, Fr. Michael describes his parish ... which sounds a lot like many American parishes: "[We were] a convenient outlet for demanding religious consumers, and what they were demanding more than anything else was to just 'get it over with' (it being Communion . . . to fulfill their obligation . . . for whatever reason they felt an obligation: guilt, fear, or just to get their mothers-in-law off their backs, whatever). It all came down to the consumption of Communion, so the greatest values in our church’s culture were simple, easy, and fast. Arriving late and leaving early were the rule rather than the exception. Parking strategically and positioning yourself in the pew to beat everyone else out were the marks of the true masters. We’ve actually had demanding consumers who, in their 'get it over with' mentality (and startling ignorance of the Eucharistic celebration) tried to insist that we bring Communion to their children in religious education classes. Since they had no intention of taking their kids to class and Mass, they wanted to streamline both. We’ve seen communicants coming to Communion with their car keys already in their hands, forcing us to place the Host alongside the keys."
American Catholicism's "consumerism" is inconsistent with authentic Christianity and sincere discipleship. American Catholicism's "consumerism" may be secularly religious at best, but it is not Christianity or discipleship.
In Deus Caritas Est, no. 1, Pope Benedict XVI writes: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction." Being Christian is about Christ, it's about Jesus. Being a disciple is less about a checklist for living and more about a person we're living with. Being Christian is a about a person and His name is Jesus Christ.
It's easier for us to follow a "way" or a "check list." There, we're still in control. There, we're really don't have to surrender fully. Many of us, at different seasons in our life, want to be disciples on our terms. It is vulnerable challenge to desire the person of Jesus Christ as revealed by Gospel. Why? People force you to change your life. People force you to be known. People force you to know them.
When we really encounter the person of Jesus Christ, we, like Saint Paul, become a people who want to follow Him ... we want to love Him ... we want to surrender to Him ... we are convicted about Him.
If someone who does not already know you met you in the grocery store, the airport, or at work, would they describe you as a religious "consumer" or a convicted disciple?
What do you want? What do you really want? What does He, the person of Jesus Christ, want for you life?
© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013
UNPACKING YESTERDAY'S HOMILY
This past weekend we talked about God's passionate desire for us to get to Heaven. Thus, we best understand what Hebrews describes as His "correction" and "discipline" through the lens of His desire for us to get to Heaven. Yesterday's homily is really only understood when we remember that life, as you know it now, is not as good as it gets. There is more for you ... on this side of Heaven ... now. God wants more for you ... now. God only "disciplines" us so that we can grow in relationship and communion with Him. He wants us to be transformed. He wants us to be redeemed. He wants us to be convicted. The question is this: do you really believe that life as you know it now is as good as it gets? Do you believed that God is convicted about transforming your life? Click here to listen to yesterday's homily from Sunday, August 25, 2013.
"Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction."
― Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, no. 1
FR. ROBERT BARRON AND EVANGELIZATION
FR. ROBERT BARRON AND EVANGELIZATION