Friday, August 10, 2012


   "Think lay."  That's the advice that David J. O'Brien gives us in this week's issue of "America" magazine.  I agree.  The primary mission of the church is to work to save the world in the grace of Christ.  Our Catholic mission starts and ends in our everyday lives in today's society and culture.  We take our everyday lives to the church building to learn about our faith and to offer ourselves and the world to God along with the bread and wine.  And we take Christ from the church building into our society and culture, to uplift and correct them in Christ's grace.  So, as O'Brien says, "Think about the church as it is on a Wednesday morning at 10 rather than on a Sunday morning at 9."

   Today, thinking lay sadly includes not having credible spiritual leadership from the hierarchy in many important moral matters.  But that doesn't have to stop us.  We still have sufficient spiritual knowledge and empowerment to fullfil God's intentions.

   By the power of our baptism and confirmation, and for many, by the sacrament of marriage, we have the ability to discern, to "see" who God wants us and the world to be and become.  We do this first by prayerfully, in fact, contemplatively, looking at our age, sex, culture, personality, talents and opportunities.  These are the factors that make up our personal vocations.  In these ways, we live out our Catholic faith.

   For example, an extrovert will help make the world more luminously human in the grace of Christ, differently from an introvert.  A young person will show Christ's saving grace to the world differently from an old person; a man from a woman; a Latino from an African-American; a German from a Brazilian from a Russian or Japanese or Chinese.  

   Our job is to make God visible and plausible in a society that is generally letting us down in three important ways:  many of our schools are generally failing to teach us how to be truly human; many of our governments are failing to lead us to true social justice; and many of our churches are failing to show us the way to spiritual maturity in today's terms.  So, let's review our spiritual challenge by beginning with the basics.

   The basics start with the fact that we are the image of the One-Triune God.

   As the image of the One God, we are on a journey to complete oneness, e.g., in physical health, educational, social and civic health--in general: toward fulfilling our integrity as humans made luminous by Christ's grace.  Our oneness includes others, the earth and God.

   As the image of God our Creator, we are creative.  We are empowered to creatively put the various "pieces" of our life together, e.g., in school, we put our education together into a living, evolving whole that shows the best human values of knowledge and understanding.  Likewise, we creatively built our marriages, families, communities and nations.  Look, for example, at how much creativity and collaboration NASA put into its new probe on Mars.  We are called to use such creativity and collaboration in the everyday world.

   As the image of God, our Savior, we are healers and peacemakers.  Our American culture tends to be a "crisis" culture."  When things go bad, e.g., an auto accident, a tragedy like 9/11, a random mass killing, we pause from our fast-moving lives to take care of one another.  Our spiritual responsibility is to be healers and peacemakers on a daily basis--to make healing and peacemaking an integral part of our everyday lives.

   As the image of God, the Holy Spirit, we are empowered and responsible to transform the world in the power of the Spirit.  We are not called simply to lament the disorder in our daily lives and world; we are called to actively work to correct them, here and now, and an essential part of the work of saving the world.  
   It is not sufficient merely to ask God to transform the world.  God has already given us the spiritual power to do it ourselves in his grace.  So God's answer to such prayers is, "I have placed the job in your hands.  Use the grace and strength I have given you and will keep giving you!"  As Fr. Daniel Berrigan prays, "Dear God, give us mystics with hands!"

   So, "think lay!"  We already know how to creatively work to bring healing, peace and transformation to ourselves and the everyday world of our personal, social and civic contact and influence.  And we have the power from God to do so.  Certainly, we can and must always learn more--from one another, from professional and spiritual guides, from our faith, and even from the hierarchy, when they speak of these things in a way we can accept as part of our sense of the faith.  

   As I say at the top of this blog, "People are suffering.  Waiting is not an option."  


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