I have found myself – and maybe you have too – chatting with other Catholics about the state of the Church and how it needs to improve, whether by enforcing reverence at Mass, imposing a dress code (skirts for women, ties for men), policing the Bishops, or outlawing guitar music. You know how it goes: it begins with giggling about Fr. Distracted’s tendency to wander off topic during the homily, and the next thing I know,
I’ve condemned every person in the pews for not being as pious as me.
It may be there are serious errors in my parish, and to be sure the Church must be vigilant against false teaching and laxity. To judge words or actions is not wrong. However, we cannot compromise fundamentals of the faith, and charity demands that when we spot error we should speak up, with love, and out of concern for the soul of the person in error. Where I go wrong is when I judge the state of a person’s soul, and in fact it has dreadful repercussions because I am essentially inviting God to judge me in the same way.
Reading Coren’s column reminded me that I tend to pickle-up - become cranky and cantankerous - when I think that only I have it all figured out. I turn into a miserable person, and that is no way to effect positive change within my parish community. Nobody was ever inspired by a sour-faced saint!
Joy is key to living a full Catholic life. As Catholics, we believe in the death and resurrection of Christ. Because of Him, we have the hope of eternal salvation – a life of unending glory in the presence of God. Through the great love and mercy of God, we have freedom from sin. We have purpose in this life, and know it continues into the next. We have the promise of being united with all our loved ones and the great host of saints in heaven.
When I grumble about ‘the state of things’, most of the time it comes from my devotion to the Church, and my sincere desire for everyone to know God’s love. It’s good to be reminded that more hearts will be won for Christ if I hold on to that joy, rather than the conviction that I am right about Fr. Distracted, the Bishops, and the guitars.
And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness ~ Ps. 104:43