Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Standards, Traditions, and Rituals

I am recognizing that there is a division within the Roman Catholic Church - particularly with the American Catholic Church. The division seems to be between those who think the Church needs to modernize itself and those who think too much modernization is an unacceptable compromise.

I am rooting for the conservatives.

My perspective is colored by many years involved with both Evangelical and non-denominational churches. I can vouch for the fact that their attempts to "relate to the culture" have, in my eyes, failed miserably in bringing the Gospel to the lost. Jesus Christ didn't seem to mind that He was unpopular in His day. Some people mistakenly think that because Jesus Christ chowed down with tax collectors and sinners, He was thumbing His nose at "The Establishment." I strongly disagree.

I believe Jesus Christ was teaching the religious authorities of that day that they needed to recognize that although a sinner is a sinner, that simply judging them and leaving it at that really isn't helping them. He showed how compassion and love pulled them into His Kingdom and then He challenged them to repent and seek to build a relationship with their Heavenly Father.

Jesus' heart was to reach the lost first, not tangle with "The Establishment." But in doing so, He never compromised on The Truth. He presented them with who He was and asked them to follow Him.

The simplicity of the Gospel too often has its foes. St. Paul chastened the Corinthians, "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity {of devotion} to Christ. (2 Cor. 11:3) However, the words of Jesus Christ are also not easy to hear. There is always the temptation to profane the holy with our own fleshly desires. It is much easier to wrestle with the peripheral than focus on the heart of the matter. It is much easier to ask how one can make a sinner comfortable than challenge he or she on the condition of their soul.

I've noticed over the past few years how many churches have compromised the Gospel. There really is no other way to say it. They've been more concerned with creating a multi-media showroom where Jesus Christ is presented as the New Self-Help Guy instead of adoring Him as the Holy Savior that He is. As a matter of fact, there is very little space given for adoration in many of these churches who are so afraid of offending people.

Which brings me to another book I just picked up: The New Faithful: Why Young Adults are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy by Colleen Carroll. Picture this: sixty college students staying after a church service so a priest could hear their confession. They didn't care how long it would take to wait, they wanted absolution. The book delves into the growing attraction young people have for tradition. And is it any wonder when they've been raised in a culture of moral relativism? They are hungering for absolute truth and praise be to God - The Way, The Truth, and The Life is waiting for them.

They hunger for the Sacraments. The Roman Catholic Church is in such an ideal position to reach out to these young adults. I am realizing that although Vatican II brought about many changes, I don't think the purpose was to so thoroughly modernize the RC Church so it's barely recognizable apart from a Wiccan ceremony. (Forgive me if that is too offensive.) People are hungering for the Sacramental life, for the Incarnate Word of the Living God.

I also was thrilled to find in my library today the book by Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth. I am just becoming acquainted once again with thinking seriously about the Pope and what he has to say. I think it is very profound that the leader of the largest church in the world would choose to write about Jesus Christ for his first book as the Pope. I pray that Pope Benedict XVI has a very long life because I'm sensing that he is just what is needed for the church today.

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