Sunday, 20 April 2008

How to change a culture

You could be forgiven if you're a bit concerned about how almost every picture I seem to post lately is of Pope Benedict XVI. I'm not obsessed...
It's just that the Holy Father has really been coming out with such profound statements recently and I'm not sure anyone else in the world comes close to matching the quality or heartfelt authenticity of what he's saying!
As he celebrated the Holy Mass, the Holy father preached on the world's perception of the Church:
"stained glass windows, which flood the interior with mystic light. From the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary. But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendor. Many writers – here in America we can think of Nathaniel Hawthorne – have used the image of stained glass to illustrate the mystery of the Church herself.
It is only from the inside, from the experience of faith and ecclesial life, that we see the Church as she truly is: flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty, adorned by the manifold gifts of the Spirit. It follows that we, who live the life of grace within the Church’s communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light.

This is no easy task in a world which can tend to look at the Church, like those stained glass windows, “from the outside”: a world which deeply senses a need for spirituality, yet finds it difficult to “enter into” the mystery of the Church. Even for those of us within, the light of faith can be dimmed by routine, and the splendor of the Church obscured by the sins and weaknesses of her members. It can be dimmed too, by the obstacles encountered in a society which sometimes seems to have forgotten God and to resent even the most elementary demands of Christian morality"
This is so very true isn't it? Often our experience of the initial beauty and wonder of the Church can be dimmed by the not-so-nice realisation that we are a Church of sinners all in need of the saving grace of God. Sometimes we expect the Church to be a body of perfection, and so often the reality is one broken, divided and at odds with each other.
How do we re-act to this? Do we simply cast out those who disagree? Do we go into our little trad / liberal groups and get suspicious about each other? Do we even attempt to love one another? My experience is we don't love one another... We simply create our trad blogs and hang around with our trad friends and that's that. As someone who lived that reality, I can tell you all it breeds is anger, bitterness and it's far from the call of our Lord who gave us as a final commandment to Love one another.
Cardinal Newman got it right when he said 'Heart speaks to Heart' (Cor et Cor loquitur). I was thinking about this as a prayed after mass. One of the side alters in the Parish at Bury St. Edmunds dedicated to our lady, had a tabernacle of repose. The Tabernacle was Gold with an image of the sacred heart in the middle. In the centre of the heart was the keyhole. It was then I realised how the Eucharist and the celebration of Holy Mass is entering into the most sacred heart of Jesus. So really when we go to Mass, encapsulated in that most sacred heart, having had a foretaste of Heaven, receiving God physically within our bodies, then to go out and still be divided, still bearing ill-will, is surely as much an offence to God, as it is to not go to mass at all.
As the Pope said to the priests and religious of New York:
"You, who have devoted your lives to bearing witness to the love of Christ and the building up of his Body, know from your daily contact with the world around us how tempting it is at times to give way to frustration, disappointment and even pessimism about the future. In a word, it is not always easy to see the light of the Spirit all about us, the splendor of the Risen Lord illuminating our lives and instilling renewed hope in his victory over the world (cf. Jn 16:33)".
That is not just a call for the priests, it's a call to all of us to open our eyes to the light of the Holy Spirit all around us. It's a call for us to keep trying to see Jesus in others.
We must never forget either that true compassion is truth, but always with Love. And only in Love will we ever be able to work with God and to His will - only then can we hope to change the culture. We, as the Church must, be a reflection of the very face of Jesus Christ. People are attracted to the truth, but if we don't live that truth, then there is nothing that can attract.
In the Popes conclusion at St. Patricks, he said:
"Act as beacons of hope, casting the light of Christ upon the world, and encouraging young people to discover the beauty of a life given completely to the Lord and his Church."
That is how we can change a culture... The question is, are we willing?

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