The noise of the world fills our ears with the political noise of the Church.
I do not think it is correct to ignore the pervasive, self-protecting, disempowering structures that exist in the Church. And like many others, both lay and ordained, I believe we need purification and reform in the Church. These are essential for restoring trust, establishing justice, and living as authentic community in Christ.
What is striking to me, however, is how the body of Christ is being forgotten in preference for the drama of Church politics. “Sexy sells” in the world, and many of us in the Church have been swept up. This has implications that we cannot look past, or we participate in the sickness of the Church that we so abhor.
When we forget the suffering of the victims, we forget the suffering and death of Christ. Remember, this conversation of scandal opened with the stories of indescribable harm done to children, seminarians, and adults at the hands of the Church. We have created scapegoats to try to deal with our utter confusion and pain. “It’s Pope Francis! It’s Vatican II! It’s homosexuality! It’s Pope Benedict XVI!” While it is understandable to look for evil to uproot, we cannot do so if it means letting our eyes drift from the eyes of those whose lives have been shattered by sanctified violation. Our anger and fear will not transform the Church.
When we forget the works and mercy and love being incarnated every day by the people of the Church, we forget Jesus’ resurrection. If you feel apathetic to the Church, struggle seeing or caring about Jesus in your life, or feel cynical about institutions of faith, you are not alone. This is also not the answer. Why? First, it does nothing to bring life to others around you or to bring healing to the victimized. Second, it is not what you were created for; you were meant for more. That is, fullness of life.
I have been empowered to move through my own sadness, negativity, and anger in two primary ways. I will offer them to you, and hope that you might have the openness of heart and mind to consider them.
First, get out of your home, out of your comfort zone, and serve the poor. Don’t let your eyes glaze over. I am serious. Why? Because when we serve and get to know the poor, we participate in the life work of Jesus. Look into their eyes, hear their stories, learn their names, see where they live, and how they get their food. See their generosity to you and each other! If only upper-middle class suburbia knew this kind of generosity! I know it can be uncomfortable. Try to put aside your fears, political views, and prejudices about the poor, and trust in Jesus’ words. Listen to his words: “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Matthew 25: 34-36). The kingdom is here, the kingdom is in this vulnerable service to the hungry and thirsty, the stranger, the sick, and the forgotten.
Talking to the director of a Catholic Worker this weekend, he said something that struck me. We were noticing how distracted people are from the present moment due to their phones and subsequently short attention spans. And he said, “This (serving and being with the poor) may be one of the only truly meaningful things that we can do in this world. And people have their phones in their faces, too distracted to see.”
Saint Teresa of Calcutta had a Simple Path: “The fruit of silence is prayer. The fruit of prayer is faith. The fruit of faith is love. The fruit of love is service. The fruit of service is peace.” While I believe this, maybe your silence is too painful right now. I recently had someone I love dearly tell me, “I don’t like to spend time with myself in silence. It’s a scary thing what I hear.” I know that at several points in my life, I have also experienced this enslavement to my thoughts. If your silence is too painful right now, start with the end of the simple path. Start with service. Let Jesus work through your hands and your words. Let your heart and mind be opened by the eyes of the vulnerable and forgotten looking straight into yours.
Second, go to Adoration. This is not an ultra-holy activity of the ultra-holy few. This is as basic as it gets. If you haven’t been in a while, Adoration is when Jesus is held in a monstrance (read: often gold apparatus that holds a consecrated host (Jesus)) so that you can see and be with Jesus in an intimate way. Some people have told me that they love Adoration because they feel like they can open their hearts and talk more freely to Jesus. Personally, I love the quiet of just being there with Jesus. The peace that I receive during Adoration is like nothing else in the world. I want you to go to Adoration to experience this peace that truly, only Christ can give.
Don’t let the noise of the world, and the political noise of the Church blind you from the life, death, and resurrection of Christ that is happening right this minute. We are part of the suffering, but can also be part of the resurrection.