Pope Francis is working to replace the church's old, imperial structure with Vatican II's vision of the global People of God. In the process, he is calling Catholics to focus on Jesus-like, compassionate discernment of real, everyday people, living in today's real, everyday world. He is thus calling for us to grow in contemporary spiritual maturity. (Cf. "Experiencing God Today," in this blog.) His call could not be more timely. With our government partially closed down, we especially need to hear what Francis is saying.
A significant minority of our fellow citizens are holding the country hostage because their obsessive vision of an America that no longer exists is leading them to false discernment and harmful political action. In a recent poll, a group of them said they want a country in which everyone is white and middle class, goes to the same school and to a Christian church, swims in the same swimming poor, and holds the same political views. They fear that they have lost "their country" and want it back. Actually, they have lost sight of the fact that America is not a country based on one ethnic identity and religion but a country based on the idea of freedom for people of all ethnic backgrounds and religions, working together for the common good. Today we could add, "with a preferential option for the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast."
This minority's inability to see beyond themselves and live as spiritual adults has caused them to create a "bubble of fear," from within which they are denying the reality of today's America. Dangerously, their fear has devolved into an ideology of anger and hatred, and they have elected people to Congress who are inflicting their anger and hate-driven fear upon the entire country. To complete the debacle, some TV and radio personalities are making good livings by feeding the fear, anger and hatred of this minority.
The absence of reason and humanity caused by this fear and hatred is exemplified by such incidents as a Congressman, who voted to close down the government, publicly berating a guard for keeping visitors out of a closed national monument, and a senator refusing to consider if the 800,000 federal employees he is responsible for putting out of work will receive back pay. Commentators laughingly say that these examples are nothing more than "pranks" and "politics as usual." Our spirituality, which was won for us on the Cross, is not that anemic; it is deep, blood red. These "pranks" contradict our human dignity and the Spirit of Truth, and are expressions of hell.
The Spiritual Disciplines, such as respect and service to others have gotten lost, along with trust, hope, joy of life, peace, justice and order. Thus, America teeters on the edge of a political, economic and social collapse that is the mark of a deep spiritual collapse.
Sadly, the minority's condition is self-afflicted. They create and attend failed schools and failed churches, resulting in failed citizenship and a failed sub-culture. As a result, they appear to be beyond helping themselves. They need a strong influx of spiritual maturity from true discerning, prophetically active, compassionate, spiritual adults. Vatican II's vision of the church requires that our spirituality "go public." And we should note here that compassion does not exclude maturely expressed anger against injustice.
Where are these spiritual adults to be found? Can we look to our parishes for them? Can we look to disenchanted Catholics? To our non-Catholic friends? To ourselves? The Spirit of Christ is present and willing. In the darkness of failed discernment, spiritual chaos looms before us. Where do we go from here.....??