There is no arguing with the data, and the facts are sobering (and sad) – most self-identified Catholics in the USA live like those who have no faith. They say they are Catholics and live like they are pagans.
The statistics tell part of the story.
- 23% of all Catholics go to church once a week or more
- The numbers for Confession are even more grim.
- 13% of all U.S. adults are former Catholics
- 60% say the church should allow women to become priests.
- nearly 50% say the church should recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples
These numbers tell us that most who identify as “Catholic” do not know, believe, or live as someone who has met Jesus, been transformed by him, and are now trying their best to follow him.
There is little difference in choices, lifestyle, & habits vs non-believers in our country. So if most Catholics live no differently, why should we be surprised that the Catholic Church has little (no?) cultural influence? If we expect the culture to be influenced by the Gospel, by our morals, by Scripture, by our values, by the doctrines of the Church, etc – then we first need to look in the mirror & ask ourselves if we have allowed those things to transform us first.
If not, then we are starting in the wrong spot. You can’t give what you don’t have. Thus, most Catholic families are not passing on faith, because they little, if any faith to give. Most Catholics who show up in Mass won’t help others become Catholic, because they aren’t sure they want to stay Catholic themselves.
This is sobering for even the most hopeful among us. Yet, there is more to the story.
Even for the Catholic who is a disciple of Jesus, we find many who constantly moan about moral & social problems of our world. This can undermine the witness we ougth to be giving non-Catholics and the world. If we MOSTLY talk bad news, then the world won’t listen to our Good News. If all they hear is how bad a sinner they are, how the world is completely corrupt, how bad they are, etc – why would they think we have something good to share with them?
OF COURSE, there is bad news. But, if we focus on it too much, then we seem not to believe in the answer Jesus provides. It makes us seem mired in despair and negativity. The antidote for the Church is to start by allowing Jesus to transform us, either for the first time or once again.
Jesus commands us to help others see their sins, but first to deal with our own. If we don’t, we act hypocritically.
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” -Matt 7: 3-5
If we try to rebuke sin in others, with the speck still in our eyes, we are partially blinded. We are prideful. We are hypocrites. This means we are unable to properly witness to the world the Jesus has changed us. That we have been made new. That God is real and powerful. Our lives MUST reflect this change in order to help others be changed.
FYI – before making this blog post, I went to Confession earlier this week.
The list of Catholic “logs” is long indeed. The logs include:
- failed leadership
- failure to evangelize the “nations” (or even those in church)
- lax morality
- lack of prayer/holiness
- worrying more about institutional maintenance over mission
- disbelif in Catholic doctrine
- and so many more.
How can we tell the world to change if we won’t?
How can we preach good news, when we show the world bad lives?
Let us resolve to live radical lives that reflect grace, peace, goodness, and love.
Let us fight evil in our own hearts, so we can properly help others.
Let us cleanse our own houses, so we can serve the world as we ought to.
God is not silent or powerless in these times. But he won’t force you to believe, hope, or love.
So, Catholics, let us start with asking ourselves these tough questions about our logs, so we can better help the world (and other Catholics who need conversion) come to follow Jesus:
- Is your heart more concerned with how you feel rather than the things you know are true and good?
- Do you allow your emotions, desires, or passion to rule your decisions instead of discerning what God wants for your life and then following his will, wherever it leads?
- Do you spend money on eating out, coffee, entertainment, or luxuries & then don’t have enough to tithe?
- Are your politics informing your religion more than your religion is informing your politics?
- Do you spend so much time on social media, Netflix, and/or games that you then don’t have time to pray or build relationships?
- Do you spend your energy in pursuit of worldly success, money, or power & then don’t have anything left for family, friends, service, community, and evangelization?
- Do you seek out ways to be liked or do you seek to love others, without concern as to what you get?
- Do you find that pride keeps you from seeking out help from others or do you allow yourself to sit at the feet of another (or others) to learn and grow from them?
- Do you love the praise of humans & then find the praise of God is not enough?
- Do you shy away from accountability from peers, because you are scared that it might mean you need to change or do you make time to pray & grow with others?
- Do you speak badly of others & yet rarely about God?
- Do you regularly seek opportunities to sin & few to repent?
- Do you regularly share your faith with those who do not believe?
- Do you look at porn or lust in your heart & complain about the world’s view of sexuality?
- Do you concern yourself with building up a reputation and being accepted by others & then avoid sharing your faith, so as to avoid possible divisions?
- Do you find your comfort is more important than the salvation of others?
You aren’t made to settle, be in despair, or be just “normal”. You are made to be great and holy. The only way to do this is to let God act in you & through you. One aspect of holiness is mission. We don’t wait to be perfect to evangelize. But, we do need to cast the logs from our eyes, before we help others see their own splinters.
Still, how do evangelize the world in the midst of such issues? We do it with faith in God, not humans. We do it realizing that the only way we can help others is by abandoning ourselves to a God that wants nothing more than to save a corrupt world. God wastes nothing. Nothing!
He is the one who can draw good out of evil, because he alone is perfect, all-powerful, and truly good. We evangelize by being instruments of God. By being faithful. By doing what he asks, even when it is hard.
God can even use the weak sinner to transform the heart of another weak sinner. He is that powerful. Praise be God for working through we who sin.
God’s plan is to use his disciples (you and I) to change the world…and there is no backup plan.