It has been said that freedom is the ability to choose among goods. The Catechism points out that a choice for evil is an abuse of freedom, and leads instead to bondage.
Catechism 1733 The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to “the slavery of sin.”<Cf. Rom 6:17>
With this understanding, it is clear that America – for whom freedom is an important and valued word – is loosing freedom with each passing generation. Evil has replaced good in American life in countless ways, and the examples continue to multiply. America has earned a shameful subtitle: the culture of death.
Many Catholics in America can no longer recognize true good, and instead are saturated and drowning in the disvalues of the secular carnal culture. The New Evangelization was advanced first to address the real need for catechesis and formation among us, so that secondly we can “be Church” and work to evangelize the world. The very identity of the Church is linked essentially to evangelization, as Paul VI said so clearly: she exists to evangelize. But has she been faithful to this vocation – this mission given her by Christ?
When the Church neglects her mission, and instead becomes self-preoccupied, what has she become? Pope Francis, a few days ago, spoke of this anomaly succinctly and poignantly. To the Argentine Bishops he said,
The typical illness of the shut-in Church is self-reference; to look at herself, to be bent over herself like the woman in the Gospel. It is a kind of narcissism that leads us to spiritual worldliness and to sophisticated clericalism, and then it impedes our experiencing ‘the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing’.
In a recent homily at the Vatican’s Santa Marta residence, he said,
When we announce the coming of Jesus and give testimony to him with our lives and words, the Church becomes a mother who nurtures her children. But when we don’t, the Church becomes a babysitter whose job it is to send children to sleep, rather than a mother.
What piercing analogies: the Church as a narcissist closed upon herself, or as a babysitter sending the children to sleep! Such analogies seem painfully appropriate to many of our self-absorbed and impoverished parishes, devoted ever to maintenance while blind to mission, desensitized to the essentials of an authentic living faith.
The Church in America needs to be awakened to the goods that in freedom deserve to be chosen! Many of us have become numb to all the evils that ought to stir us to the mission! The culture of death no longer horrifies us, yet all the while it continues to permeate and deaden us, old and young. The communion of prayer escapes us, so busy with trivia have we become. The grace of the sacraments flows through our fingers, so poorly disposed are we as we approach and receive them. We have become impoverished, in a poverty that is no beatitude. Where, then, is our freedom in Christ? It waits for us in Him, while the prison door of slavery threatens to close behind us. Where then is “Holy Mother Church”? Blessed Mother Mary, pray for us!