August 9, 2019

Christ the Cornerstone

Why should we stay? God’s truth and love are the reasons

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects” (Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI).

In the fourth chapter of Letter to a Suffering Church: A Bishop Speaks on the Sexual Abuse Scandal, Bishop Robert E. Barron addresses the important question, “Why Should We Stay?” The bishop is speaking directly to Catholics “who feel, understandably, demoralized, scandalized, angry beyond words, and ready to quit.”

Bishop Barron’s response is a masterful summary of the treasure that is our Catholic way of life, and he strongly urges all Catholics to meditate prayerfully on six fundamental reasons why we should remain faithful to our baptismal call.

The first reason proposed in Letter to a Suffering Church is simple, but extremely important: The Church speaks of God.

Speaking about God is not easy or common in our contemporary culture. We are immersed in a secular, often anti-religious, environment that has effectively cut all ties with our spiritual roots. When it exists, God-talk is reduced to worship services that are less frequently attended than in previous generations, and explicit references to God are either discouraged or forbidden in the public square, politics, business, social services, the arts and education.

The Church insists on speaking about God—not just on the weekends at Mass, but in every circumstance that concerns the life and dignity of human persons.

We speak of God when talking about marriage and family life, immigration, poverty, addiction, health care, education and sexuality. We talk about God when it is uncomfortable to do so, especially regarding the dignity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death, and we refuse to allow secular values to override our most basic and fundamental convictions about the human person made in the image and likeness of God.

“The Church, despite its many failings, speaks of God, of the transcendent Mystery, of that which corresponds to the most ardent desire of the heart, of the Ultimate Reality” and, Bishop Barron writes, “this word, especially today, is like water in the desert.”

St. Augustine said it best, of course. Our hearts are wired for God, and therefore will remain restless until they rest in God. “Stay with the Church,” Bishop Barron urges all Catholics, “because at its best it properly orients the hungry heart.”

Unfortunately, we have recently witnessed the failure of the Church to speak about God with credibility. There is no excuse for this. The earthen vessels that contain the treasure of God’s truth and love are fragile.

We (all the baptized) are the Church, and all of us—with the exception of Mary, the mother of God and our mother—are sinful human beings who carry on Christ’s work very imperfectly. And yet, according to Letter to a Suffering Church, we are one of “the few remaining institutions in our society that will speak to your children about God.”

The great Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton once remarked, “The first effect of not believing in God, is that you lose your common sense.” Many would argue that our secular world has, indeed, lost its common sense.

Where is the sense in withdrawing food and water from a dying man? In denying the right to life to the most innocent of victims in the womb? In forcing children and families to suffer gross indignities as they flee their homeland in search of freedom and a better life? In pursuing wealth, power and sensual pleasure as the highest good of human life?

As recent popes (especially John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis) have repeatedly emphasized, when God is absent from our minds and hearts, “humanity loses its bearings with increasingly evident destructive effects.” We need only glance at today’s headlines or read the incessant chatter on social media to see the “destructive effects” that result from our society’s denial of the presence of God.

There are many reasons for remaining faithful to our baptismal vocation, but the most immediate and compelling is the opportunity that active participation provides us to hear the word of God and to share it generously with others.

God-talk is not just for Sunday worship. It’s for daily living and for the most important moments in our lives as individuals and as a society.

God is with us. Always and everywhere. Let’s turn to him and ask him to help us remain faithful, and, as members of his body, the Church, to speak about him often, by the power of his grace. †

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