Pew Forum: 27% claim to be spiritual, not religious
Trend is noticeable—one indicator is declining Mass attendance;
We can come up with reasons and solutions: The Church needs to do this….. If only the Church did this….
Here’s the problem:
WE ARE THE CHURCH.
Meaning, any Church reform is useless unless it begins with each of us.
Also, St. Paul will refer to the Church as the Body of Christ. It is the mechanism through which Christ continues to work in the world. This means we need to seek His will, His truth if we are to live as the Body of Christ.
This is the reason why there is a problem with being spiritual not religious. It seeks to separate what cannot be separated.
Religion comes from the latin word, religare, meaning to bind to.
We as imperfect beings, made in the image and likeness of God, can only attain perfect by ‘binding’ ourselves to the one who is perfection, God. We don’t use the word bind, we say uniting ourselves mind and heart to God.
This union allows us to live true to our ourselves, our true nature. It allows us to experience joy and love, not just temporarily, but for the long haul.
Spirituality involves those practices that allow us to be aware of the intersection of the divine with our everyday lives. Spirituality is how we unite or bind ourselves to God.
One without the other makes no sense because they are incomplete.
The ‘spiritual but not religious’ isn’t something to be mocked or criticized. Rather, we should recognize what is being said. It reveals a longing within the person for something more; for truth and love and goodness.
It is our role as Christian disciples to help them recognize that they will find what they are looking for in Jesus Christ.
That role is one we are not comfortable with, but I think that is because we are stuck on the image of what that looks like.
We need to look at the model St. Paul offers today:
“Christ will be magnified in my body.”
What does he that mean? St. Paul is saying that he will strive to give glory to God in his thoughts, words and actions.
His faith isn’t going to be just showing up for Church, it will be that and more; it will be living in love with Jesus Christ.
Christianity can’t be anything less than lived relationship with Christ. If we keep our faith in the head, or just to our actions, we’ve missed the whole point.
Last week we heard Jesus say in the Gospel that we need to forgive others ‘from the heart’. This is more than tolerance, it is an act of love.
Love involves not just part of us, but the entire person. Living in love with Christ changes us, hence the reason why if we want to change the Church, we need to change, we need to strengthen our love of Christ.
This commitment is more than just how we act towards others.
For example, think of the person who drives you absolutely crazy. It could be a classmate or coworker, a neighbor or somebody you see or hear on TV or in the news.
Every time you hear this person you feel your jaw tense up, your fists clench, you feel anxious, annoyed, frustrated or angry.
Here is the thing: Nowhere in the Gospel does Jesus say: “Blessed are they who are driven crazy.”
In those situations, the others person’s faults, sins, weaknesses are not the issue.
The issue is the anxiety, stress, frustration and anger we experience; these are indicators that I am focused on me, my way, my wants, myself.
Further problem: I justify it.
“That person is so annoying!” “He doesn’t know what he is talking about.” “Someone needs to straighten her out.”
A couple of weeks ago Jesus spoke about correcting others; but if you recall, our posture was to be one of love, mercy and patience—well actually more than that. It was to be limitless love, mercy and patience.
Those are the characteristics of living in love with Christ. They are actions that give glory to God.
The reason why we can remain hopeful and joyful despire our failure at being Christ like: God’s mercy and love.
The Church is a collection of saints and sinners. The saints are those in heaven, living in perfect love with God.
That leaves us, the sinners. All of us. Oscar Wilde said “every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”
We have a future because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He offers us redemption, forgiveness of our sins and the graces to be drawn into the divine life itself: if we accept what he offers. These are a gift of God to be received freely, not forced upon us.
We give God glory not just by living the Gospel virtues, but also when we recognize our failures and our brokenness and turn to the Lord for His healing and graces to overcome our weaknesses.
It is our confidence in the Lord’s generous mercy and love and our persistence in discerning and seeking to live His will that provides a witness to the others.
We don’t justify or excuse our sins, but we don’t allow them to paralyze us. We continually turn to God, receive His forgiveness and seek to bind ourselves to Him
The fruit of these efforts: Joy, peace of heart and inner strength that allows us to persevere as children of God despite the chaos we have to sometimes deal with in life.
Let this joy and peace be how we extol God as well as what attracts others to Him.