The answer to confusion is spiritual growth.
There’s no panic when we’re standing in the light of God.
The Church is not going to die out. That’s nonsense. The Church of the future will be smaller but it’ll be made up of men and women to whom the Good News has come “not only as words, but as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction” (Second Reading).
When I was a teenager I’d go to Mass with friends. My parents were delighted that I was going to Mass. What they didn’t realize was that the only reason I was going to Mass was because afterwards I met my girlfriend there! With my friends we’d stand at the back of the Church with much older men. The older men would go absolutely ballistic if Mass was longer than 30 minutes; the shorter the better. After Mass the older men would stand talking at the Church gate while we’d be hanging out. We often hung out for an hour or more and the older men would be still standing at the gate talking. It used to amaze us and we were only chaps!
That’s what’s dying out, only that! It’s dying out because there’s nothing of substance there. Actually we think it’s dying out but in fact what’s happening is that God is sifting. If we’ve been alive at all to the Gospels on recent Sundays we’d know that when we don’t bear fruit, God takes the kingdom from us and gives it to people who will produce its fruit. That’s all that’s happening.
The mission of the Church is not self-serving. The mission of the Church is the salvation of the world. It looks outward. The salvation of the world means nothing more than the well-being of the world. This is both spiritual and material well-being. Indeed, it’s material well-being because it’s first spiritual well-being. The men on the Mission Team years ago would have described it as temporal and eternal well-being. In the great places of Marian apparition our Lady calls this well-being ‘peace’.
If religion is true to Christ, in our case Catholicism, it is by its very nature missionary, it’s moving out towards the world. Anyone who has put a toe in the spiritual world knows this! Only a person who has never entered the kingdom of God thinks that Catholicism should be private. Thinking that Catholicism should be private is the spiritual equivalent of denying the laws of gravity in the physical world! It’s a sure indication that we haven’t entered the kingdom God.
Think of it like this; God reached out of himself in Jesus, Jesus reached out and captures others – disciples – and some are made apostles. What’s doing the capturing can’t be seen – we can see it only in its fruits – and I can’t give it to you, you must receive it from God yourself (although I may have a ‘hand’ in it). It moves outward all the time, capturing… It’s summarized perfectly in Jesus words to Peter; “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”.
It is worth noting too the kind of images Jesus uses. A fisherman doesn’t capture every fish in the sea. Some of the fish he catches he’ll throw back… useless! The kingdom of God is not an all-inclusive utopia! There’s a door, a way in. Think of the guy in last Sunday’s Gospel; he gets inside the wedding feast but gets thrown out because he’s not wearing a wedding garment.
The mission of the Church is not about seats and lights; it’s about spiritual growth. In times like ours, when there’s much confusion in the Church, about the Church, about God and Jesus and just about everything else, the answer is always spiritual growth. It’s the mission of the Church and it’ll clear up all our confusion.
Click on the link below to check out Joseph Ratzinger’s prophecy about the future of the Catholic Church written more than 40 years ago – long before he would become Benedict XVI: