Our most defining characteristic as human persons is this: we are made in the divine image. This explains our origin: God made us. This explains our vocation on this earth: we are called to conversion and to return – to return to God, to a living and loving relationship with Him. This explains our destiny: we are ordered toward an eternity in personal and divine communion in God the Holy Trinity and with one another. God is the rightful and appropriate center in the life of a human person, and without this anchor in reality, man is lost.
Our culture is lost. If there is a God, to this culture He is irrelevant. This is, in a practical sense, atheism. This explains why this culture has been called a “culture of death.” This explains the profound and essential confusion at the very core of our society. We are a culture of people who do not know who we are, or where we are going, or why we are going there.
Regularly I “go to Mass” as it is often said. I participate in the holy celebration, the divine worship of Mass. Holy Eucharist is always of infinite value, and there we most intimately meet Christ our Lord. But I want to talk a bit about homilies in our celebration of Mass, because the Liturgy of the Word generally and the homily in particular prepare us for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The foundations of our right reception of the Eucharist are laid in our Catholic formation, but for many Catholic adults, formation in the Faith of the Church is mostly that gleaned in Sunday homilies. Thus homilies are of great importance, are crucial, in the faith formation of adults and in their right reception of Christ in Holy Eucharist.
Too often the homily is a great challenge not to our lack of proper zeal and fidelity to Christ, but to our patient listening! Not infrequently I struggle to remain in the pew with my mouth shut, because Christ and His people deserve so much more. Too commonly the homily is merely nice, well-crafted and tranquil: a lullaby of platitudes. The house is on fire, the family is asleep, and we are sung sweet lullabies! We need trumpets! We need a clarion call to (spiritual) arms! We need watchmen at the gates and on the walls, crying out that the enemy is near, at the doors, and we are in danger. We need zeal, and fervor – and we too often find impotence and sterility.
To believe in a God who is irrelevant to one’s every day, thought and act is “practical atheism,” no matter how sacramentalized a Catholic he appears to be. We sin against God by such a lie. The Catechism lists several ways we can sin against our privilege and our duty to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength:
Catechism 2094 One can sin against God’s love in various ways:
- - indifference neglects or refuses to reflect on divine charity; it fails to consider its prevenient goodness and denies its power.
- - ingratitude fails or refuses to acknowledge divine charity and to return him love for love.
- - lukewarmness is hesitation or negligence in responding to divine love; it can imply refusal to give oneself over to the prompting of charity.
- - acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by divine goodness.
- - hatred of God comes from pride. It is contrary to love of God, whose goodness it denies, and whom it presumes to curse as the one who forbids sins and inflicts punishments.
If this list can be taken as a progression, which it does seem to be, then we can see the slippery slope sliding down to a most horrible and grave transgression: actual hatred of Almighty God. And we see how it begins, in an individual or a nation: indifference – the neglect or refusal to even think about God and His love – the reduction of God to irrelevance. A God of no real import, no relevance or significance in our lives, solicits and deserves no gratitude, but rather at most only a lukewarm response to opportunities of living true Christian charity and witness to the life of Christ. Since God is irrelevant, Christ is as well – the whole Gospel story is quaint and traditional, but when Mass is over, so is any living acknowledgment of Christ in us, the hope of glory.
Beyond an expected, minimal and socially acceptable lukewarmness comes acedia – spiritual sloth. An actual disgust toward God and the things of God. He is, after all, so “twentieth century”, so politically incorrect, so not modern and progressive. Only one step remains for satan’s complete victory: hatred of God, the supplanting of Him by pride, the complete rejection of the command that defines us as human persons: to love God with one’s whole heart and mind and soul and strength, and neighbor as self.
The culture of death, growing in its cold grasp around our throats, is moving closer day by day toward this satanic communion with hatred. Religious indifference in daily life permeates the nation; even in our worship we hardly acknowledge the fire of His authentic Presence. The enemy is, truly, at the very door, and our watchmen sing us lullabies and preach to us platitudes.
Catholics, and all Christians, take the responsibility for your own awakening into your own hands! Yes, the Church owes you more, but you owe God nonetheless. Take up your Catechism! Take up your Bible! Take up serious and earnest and heart-felt prayer, and like the poor widow let your pleas not stop until we gain justice. Weakened and hungry adults – having at best an eighth grade formation in the Faith – cannot stand against the sly and devious enemy. You must seek, and find, a vibrant and growing adult Faith – strong against the deceptions and pressures now taking aim against us all.