Recognizing the delicate balancing act required to address this topic, I wish to pull together some thoughts regarding the purpose of the Church, and thus, its relevance for people of all ages, including today.
On a feast day such as today, the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, it is good to give prayerful consideration to the beginnings of the Church in the call of Jesus and the faith of the early followers. To build upon the faith of the Apostles means to be aware of the call of Jesus in our own life. It means to be aware of His message, revealing the love of God. It means being deeply aware of His concern for us, just as He listened to the many needs of those who approached Him in His earthly ministry, and answered all their needs.
Just as the Apostles could not contain their faith, and had to share it with others, so are the People of God to be so filled with the Good News of salvation that it naturally flows over in all of their relationships, through the course of their entire life.
We are aware of numerous polls telling us some basics of the reality of the Church today. Most polls would say that somewhere around 1/3 of those claiming to be Catholic attend Mass on a weekly basis. These tend to be the backbone of the Church, serving the Church in its many ministries and roles of leadership. For this core group of Catholics, we are very grateful.
Another poll I read just today states that people should perhaps spend less time in the Mall, and more time in Church. (Poll conducted by researchers from Ben-Gurion University in Israel with data collected by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Council.) The basis for this study was the “happiness” of people. The primary point being that money cannot bring us happiness.
Even though the Church does not exist solely to bring us happiness, there is a fundamental truth revealed in this study, though not explicitly stated, that only Jesus Christ can fill the deepest longings of the human heart…thus the relevancy of the Church!
The challenge for us as Church today is to find a way to preach this Truth in our modern culture in a way that “resonates”. The same poll asked a poignant question: So if Church goers are more happy than others, why is it that more people do not go to Church? One answer to this was that “shopping gives a certain immediate gratification”, which the Church attendance does not necessarily provide.
I would partially agree, and thus propose that we should be somewhat leery of how we assess things today. To do so merely from the stand point of gratification leaves us prey to the fleeting nature of this world, and keeps our sights far below the reality of faith, and the necessity of having a profound relationship with God.
Perhaps one way we “preach” the message of the Good News today is to ask people to honestly assess their priorities. Are the things they give their time and attention to truly satisfying? Perhaps part of the answer is to ask people to take a little more of a “long-term approach” when it comes to matters of faith, when it comes to giving Christ a chance by making Him and His Church a priority.
One thing is certain: we come into this life with nothing, and we depart this life with nothing. This alone tells us the fleeting nature of this world. That does not mean that the world is bad. Quite the contrary, all that is created by God is good, but this world is fleeting. This simple starting point then helps us ask the question about what truly remains, to help us determine the best use of our time, energy, and resources in this life.
To answer the question of what “truly remains”, one need look no further than St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 13:12-13. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Surely the Church is about proclaiming the Love of Christ. Truly, the Church exists to strengthen us in faith and hope. Surely, the Church, who gathers the people of all ages into the family of God is perhaps more relevant today, than any other time. There are many people in the world looking for meaning and truth today. May we help them find the ultimate Truth, Jesus Christ by inviting them to walk with us through this life, in the loving embrace of the Church.