April 8, 2016


The Church thrives in troubled times

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington is quoted as saying, “The Church thrives in troubled times. This was true in the past, and it will be true in the future. The difference is that the times we live in now are our troubled times. We are the disciples of Jesus Christ who must bear witness to him in the challenging circumstances of today.”

The cardinal’s insight is a powerful one. The Apostles, martyrs and saints of the past two millennia can serve as a great inspiration for us, and we believe they actively assist us with their intercessory prayer. But we are the ones who have to stand in their place today. We are the ones who must stand for what we believe over and against the principalities and powers of the 21st century. Our responsibility is to follow the example of yesterday’s saints so that we can pass on a vibrant, faith-filled Church to our descendants.

What are the challenges we face today, and how can we help the Church to thrive (not merely survive) during these troubled times?

Certainly threats against the sanctity of human life (abortion, euthanasia, genocide, capital punishment and more) are at the top of the list. Terrorism, poverty, hunger, homelessness, the plight of refugees, epidemics, incurable diseases and mental illnesses are all-too prominent on our list of troubles. Add to these the effects of secularism and the moral decay we witness all around us, and it would be easy to be discouraged. How are people of faith supposed to deal with the difficulties and challenges that characterize these troubled times?

Pope Francis tells us that we are missionary disciples called to move beyond our “comfort zones” and to go out to the peripheries—the margins of human society—to give witness to the joy we have found in the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. Rather than sit around and complain about how awful the world is, we are challenged to do something about it.

But what can we do about the culture of death, or terrorism or the rise of secularism? We can do what Christians have always done. We can pray, we can proclaim the Good News, and we can feed the hungry, clothe the naked, minister to the sick, shelter the homeless and visit prisoners. These are the apostolic works employed by saints and martyrs in every age, and they are the equally valid strategies at our disposal as 21st-century missionary disciples called to grow the Church (help it thrive), and prepare for Christ’s return in glory at the end of time.

If we are worried about the current state of the world (or about the Church’s ability to withstand the pressures increasingly applied by external, secular forces), we should increase the frequency and fervor of our prayer. We should attend Mass more often and participate in the sacraments more regularly. How often do we pray for peace? For the protection of human life? For the poor and homeless? For refugees and all victims of terror? How often do we confess our sins—what we have done, and what we have failed to do?

Pope Francis urges us to be more actively engaged in the life of the Church—not reluctantly or with sour faces, but with hearts filled with joy. This is no time for passive or part-time Christianity. Our troubled times call for missionary disciples who are serious about what they believe, and who are willing to stand up and be counted as women and men of faith.

Only we can sustain the Church’s mission in the face of the unique challenges of our time. Only we can affirm the culture of life over and against all the forces of death and destruction. Only we can defend religious liberty, and refuse to allow the genocide against Christians and other religious peoples throughout the world. Only we can feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and minister to all who are in need.

Only we can be Jesus Christ to our sisters and brothers here in Indiana and throughout the world. Only we can help the Church thrive in these troubled times because of our prayer, our evangelization and our service to others.

We are right to be worried about the state of the world today, but our response should not be to wring our hands. It should be to raise our hands in prayer, to preach the Gospel with our words and actions, and to extend a helping hand to all who are in need.

If we are successful, the Church will thrive in our day and be a great blessing to generations to come! May the risen Lord give us the grace to be his faithful disciples—now and always!

—Daniel Conway

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