The Mission is Always Outwards

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage, there has been much introspection among the faithful about the way forward on marriage, religious liberty, and the role of faith in the public square.  Perhaps because we’ve been fighting this battle in New York for so long, these are familiar discussions to us, and I’ve written about them before.

From what I’ve seen so far, there are many calls to civil disobedience, although very few people have actually engaged the question of how that will be done and how extensive it will have to be (which will be the subject of a future post here).  Others have called for what some are terming a “Benedict Option”, modeled after the founder of the great monastic order, in which a groups of the faithful draw away from the general society in hopes of laying the seeds of reforming it.   Others emphasize the inward path of conversion of our own hearts, so that in our private lives, we are good witnesses to our faith.  Some have even advocated for shaking the dust of the world from our feet and leaving it on the path to its own destruction.

None of these is an adequate answer to the situation we find ourselves in.  Surely, we need to come together with like-minded people, to strengthen our faith communities and provide mutual support.  Our lives are always in need of conversion, and the best teachers of the truth are always those who witness to it in their everyday lives.  We undoubtedly will have to resist unjust laws, and bear the consequences.  All of that has merit, and each of us will have to find the path that the Holy Spirit is calling them to.

But in searching for our plan of action, we have to make sure that we don’t keep our focus only on ourselves.  If we do that, we will lose sight of a crucial point. In the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20), Our Lord gave the Church a very clear mission to the world:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.

The mission of the Church is never to pull away from humanity and turn inward, nor is it meant to be in a state of defensive warfare with the forces of power in the world.  We are not meant to practice our faith only in our private lives, indifferent to the state of society.  Pope Francis said it very well in The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium):

… no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society. Who would claim to lock up in a church and silence the message of Saint Francis of Assisi or Blessed Teresa of Calcutta? They themselves would have found this unacceptable. An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better that we found it. We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles, its hopes and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses. The earth is our common home and all of us are brothers and sisters. If indeed “the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics”, the Church “cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice”. All Christians, their pastors included, are called to show concern for the building of a better world. This is essential, for the Church’s social thought is primarily positive: it offers proposals, it works for change and in this sense it constantly points to the hope born of the loving heart of Jesus Christ.  (183)

These are difficult times, similar to those experienced by the Church in many prior ages, and in many places in our own time.  But we should always remember that the mission of the Church — and each one of us — is always to change the world, to transform it in light of the joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our mission is outside.

14 Responses to “The Mission is Always Outwards”

  1. David Roemer says:

    Reasons to Believe in Jesus

    Reasons to believe Jesus is alive in a new life with God can be found in quotes from two prominent atheists and a biology textbook.

    Thus the passion of man is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man in order that God may be born. But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion. (Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, New York: Washington Square Press, p. 784)

    Among the traditional candidates for comprehensive understanding of the relation of mind to the physical world, I believe the weight of evidence favors some from of neutral monism over the traditional alternatives of materialism, idealism, and dualism. (Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, location 69 of 1831)

    And certain properties of the human brain distinguish our species from all other animals. The human brain is, after all, the only known collection of matter that tries to understand itself. To most biologists, the brain and the mind are one and the same; understand how the brain is organized and how it works, and we’ll understand such mindful functions as abstract thought and feelings. Some philosophers are less comfortable with this mechanistic view of mind, finding Descartes’ concept of a mind-body duality more attractive. (Neil Campbell, Biology, 4th edition, p. 776 )

    Sartre speaks of the “passion of man,” not the passion of Christians. He is acknowledging that all religions east and west believe there is a transcendental reality and that perfect fulfillment comes from being united with this reality after we die. He then defines this passion with a reference to Christian doctrine which means he is acknowledging the historical reasons for believing in Jesus. He does not deny God exists. He is only saying the concept of God is contradictory. He then admits that since life ends in the grave, it has no meaning.

    From the title of the book, you can see that Nagel understands that humans are embodied sprits and that the humans soul is spiritual. He says, however, that dualism and idealism are “traditional” alternatives to materialism. Dualism and idealism are just bright ideas from Descartes and Berkeley. The traditional alternative to materialism is monism. According to Thomas Aquinas unity is the transcendental property of being. Campbell does not even grasp the concept of monism. The only theories he grasps are dualism and materialism.

    If all atheists were like Sartre, it would be an obstacle to faith. An important reason to believe in Jesus is that practically all atheists are like Nagel and Campbell, not like Sartre.

    by David Roemer

  2. DottieDay says:

    I expect our bishop and our priests to say something – to take a stand — to lead us. Let’s be honest. No one in my world (3 different parishes) has uttered one word about the SCOTUS decision and what it means to faithful Catholics. Yet most of us know that living our faith is to face the challenge of a hostile environment where the majority voice is prepared to call us haters and homophobes and send us to legal hell.

    In my opinion, we have a weak management team that thinks silence doesn’t say anything. I’ve got news for that team: we can see with our own eyes that the pride parade has participants representing Catholic parishes. That there are pre-Pride Masses. That organizations like Courage take a back seat if any at all. We are told to welcome everyone as if we didn’t before this whole movement began. That some are happy that homosexuality has advanced to a constitutional right. Will our clergy address the gay marriage decision as a monumental life changing turn for practicing faithful Catholics. Will someone at least remind us of the narrow gate Jesus spoke about?

  3. Peter Rox says:

    1.We see no instance in the Gospels or in the Letters of the New Testament in which there is a call to change a civil law. There are only instances of how followers of Christ should be living their lives, particularly, “Love one another”. As a matter of fact, Jesus said to “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s , and to God what is God’s. Civil marriage is Caesars !
    2. The Catholic marriage rite is not at all affected by the Court’s decision.
    3. Same sex marriage has been the law for years in several states, and there has never been an instance of any parish or diocese or priest facing a civil law suit for not performing such a marriage. This is just like the fact that civil marriages are available for divorced persons, but not Catholic weddings.
    4. The real issue that no one talks about is why so few young couples choose Catholic marriages . Recent statistics indicate that there are only a third of the number of catholic weddings today that there were in the 1960’s, although much higher populations.
    5. A previous commenter mentioned the Gay Pride marches throughout the US this year. In San Francisco, there were over 1 Million persons participating. In Chicago, the news reported that there were over 1. 2 Million participants. And in New York, the numbers were reported at 2 Million. in each of these cities, these numbers exceeded by a great many multiples the number of persons who attended Mass that weekend.
    6. One reason that it is so difficult for the Catholic Bishops to figure out how to respond to the Supreme Court decision is because it is a case of “The Emperor has no clothes.”. The Fortnight for Freedom was just ending with 4th of July, the Court’s decision came out in the middle of the fortnight, and even though this observance has never been successful at convincing Catholics that we are being oppressed by out government, this message of alleged government oppression was a special failure this year with many people in the pews discussing at the coffee hours that they were privately celebrating that the Court upheld the health care law again, even though the bishops oppose it, celebrating that their children and their families have affordable health care, that their family members with pre-existing conditions can get insurance. And two people at coffee hour mentioned they were celebrating the gay marriage decision so that one of their daughters could marry in Kentucky, and the other person said that her son was married to a male parish member in a New York civil ceremony.
    7. Lots of us do not like ” trickle down spirituality” coming only from the bishops and clergy. The Holy Spirit is very active in grass roots spirituality, in celebrations of life. in acceptance of all persons. At my senior age, I am tired of having listened all my life from pulpits and chanceries whom to shun, whom to exclude, whom to disdain, as if our Catholic smugness equalizes good works and salvation. The exclusionary tactics of the hierarchy and clergy have successfully emptied most of the Catholic churches in Europe, and they are doing a good job at this in the US. There is still hope here to turn it around, but let’s attract people to the Gospel, like the old song at guitar masses, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Play-acting fake martyrdoms of government oppression is not going to draw in anybody, and young people see right through this.

  4. DottieDay says:

    There is so much you have said that deserves response, I wish I was smart enough and had time enough to do just that. I only submit the following from today’s Rorate Caeli blog concerning St. Thomas More and the civil authority he defied over the King’s version of marriage. I offer it to you as what I wish I could write in response to some of what you’ve said.
    I’ve shortened it here, but you can read the whole blog here:
    The blog is titled: “An Act of Parliament, directly oppugnant to the laws of God and his holy Church…”

    All which notwithstanding the jury found him guilty, and incontinent upon the verdict the Lord Chancellor [for that matter chief commissioner] beginning in judgment against him, Sir Thomas More said to him,

    “My Lord, when I was towards the law, the manner in such case was to ask the prisoner before judgment, why judgment should not be given against him.”

    Whereupon the Lord Chancellor staying his judgment, wherein he had partly proceeded, demanded of him what he was able to say to the contrary. Who then in this sort mildly made answer:

    “Forasmuch as, my Lord, this indictment is grounded upon an Act of Parliament, directly oppugnant to the laws of God and his holy Church, the supreme government of which, or of any part thereof, may no temporal prince presume by any law to take upon him as rightfully belonging to the See of Rome, a spiritual preeminence by the mouth of our Saviour himself, personally present upon the earth, to St. Peter and his successors, bishops of the same see, by special prerogative, granted, it is therefore in law amongst Christian men insufficient to charge any Christian.”…

    Then was it thereunto by the Lord Chancellor answered, that seeing all the bishops, universities, and best learned men of the Realm had to this Act agreed, it was much marvelled that he alone against them all would so stiffly stick and vehemently argue there against. To that Sir Thomas More replied saying,

    “If the number of bishops and universities be so material, as your Lordships seemeth to take it, then see I little cause why that thing in my conscience should make any change. For I nothing doubt, but that though not in this Realm, yet in Christendom about they be not the least part, that be of my mind therein. But if I should speak of those that be already dead, of whom many be now saints in heaven, I am very sure it is the far greater part of them, that all the while they lived, thought in this case that way that I think now. And therefore am I not bound to conform my conscience to the council of one realm against the General Council of Christendom.”…

  5. Peter Rox says:

    It’s truly a shame that Thomas More lost his life. I believe that the hard thing in life is to find ways to peaceably get along with people, in other words, to agree to disagree, and then to move on, hopefully persuading by an exemplary Christian example. Or to start by tolerating each other, then maybe even moving toward Christian love. As Pope Francis sees the Church as “a field hospital ” for the spiritually wounded, I look at the sacraments as “spiritual medicine”, and not as a prize awarded by Catholic hierarchy for sticking to their closed way of thinking and doing. Shame on the list makers who decide all those who dare not share in the Eucharist.
    The American Catholic Church has a gift to offer the world and universal Catholicism, and that is our history of an ever-expanding understanding of the word “equality”, and one that with great difficulty at times, we persevere in pursuing in America, despite the great multiplicity of religions, ethnicities, races, and economic statuses. As a people, we are committed to this. I do not see our Catholic Church committed to any of these ideals as proclaimed in the New Testament. Our hierarchy have lost their way, immersed themselves in riches, power, and vain glories, and keep looking for the government to make laws for them to enforce their (the hierarchy’s) idea of Catholic doctrine, despite what other faiths are proclaiming on the same subject. Jesus sought to change individual hearts, not laws or tribunals.
    As for poor Thomas More, even the Vatican seems to acknowledge that the problem under King Henry VIII got out of hand. Pope Benedict established the equivalent of a diocese for any Anglicans and Episcopalians who want to jump ship to even have their own English traditional liturgies and clergy, and have all kinds of autonomy that the US Catholics do not have. Bishops and priests (even married !!! ) got to transfer as Catholic with only a year of “finishing school” .
    All the present way of inventing and imposing all sorts of doctrine and hierarchical immersion into civil politics has done in Europe and the US has been to empty the churches , shut the schools, dry up vocations. !!!!! Wake up, bishops, the Holy Spirit has been trying to send a message .

  6. DottieDay says:

    Oh Peter. Agree to disagree? Oh how I despise that phrase. Not you of course, The thinking behind that phrase. Go along to get along is another. It is a meaningless soporific. You can’t agree to ignore objective truth. You say the son is hot; I say the son is cold. Let’s agree to disagree? Better that we just agree to drop the subject because we cannot agree.

    We were just reminded In yesterday’s Gospel of what Jesus told his apostles when he was training them to go out into the world. He didn’t tell them to find a way to agree to disagree or to get along with everybody. In fact, His words are chilling and specific. Shake the dust from your feet and take your peace with you.

    And today the Lord’s words are even more powerful of what to expect when we follow Him: Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.

    Remember Peter. Your “poor Thomas More” is my Saint Thomas More.

    Rest assured, all this fightin’ talk is coming from one big cowardly Catholic who would just as soon cross the street than have a disagreeable moment no less than an argument with someone who disagrees with me.

    Saint Thomas More, pray for me. : )

  7. Tom Seeman says:

    2. The Catholic marriage rite is not at all affected by the Court’s decision.

    – Just you wait.

    ..and there has never been an instance of any parish or diocese or priest facing a civil law suit for not performing such a marriage

    – That’s because they were biding their time until the moment was right. Remember how nearly all Democrat politicians were against gay marriage less than 10 years ago? Obama and Biden spoke out against it in 2008. We knew they were lying and would “evolve” when the moment was right.

    – Now that the left has the wind at it’s back and feels strong they will come after us. There have been many articles in the regular media about this.

    4. The real issue that no one talks about is why so few young couples choose Catholic marriages .

    – No, they’re both “real issues,” and at best you are engaging in an attempt to divert. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.

    — I know I sound harsh, but I’ve learned the hard way that the left engages in take-no-prisoners Alinskyite tactics and their goal is to destroy orthodox religion and beliefs. The big lie was always that gays just wanted to get married and live like the rest of us, or that they just wanted “marriage equality.” No, they want to destroy all opposition. More, they want to force everyone to positively affirm – applaud – their lifestyles. Not only will dissent be squashed, you won’t be allowed to site on the sidelines.

    — Just look at how the left deals with everything from so-called global warming to rape on campus. Opposition is not to be tolerated.

  8. Peter Rox says:

    Concerning “so called global warming”, Pope Francis has some thoughts on this himself.

  9. Jake says:

    …teaching them to observe all that I have commanded….I think avoiding same sex marriage would fall in line with that. From a medical perspective: current CDC data shows 50 k new cases of HIV PER YR! in addition 20% increase since 2013. HIV is not curable but can be suppressed at this point in time, however, yearly cost per patient approx. $20 k. This includes 3-5 drug taken as many as three times to four times per day. If you do not follow the dosing correctly, virus suppression may be incomplete…..just the facts

  10. joe says:

    Jake, you do realize that same sex marriage would promote a committed relationship correct? HIV does not “spring out of” same sex marriages just because they are marriages between the same sex. God did not plague gay people with HIV. It is just as easily transmittable in heterosexual relationships…just the facts

  11. Ed Mechmann says:

    The fact, according to the CDC: “Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are more severely affected by HIV than any other group in the United States.” Taking that into account, along with the often-expressed idea among homosexual men that their relationships (including “marriages”) are not intended to be exclusive, and it’s pretty clear that changing the definition of marriage is not the solution to the public health crisis of HIV infections.

  12. joe says:

    Ed, I never suggested same sex marriage as a solution to prevent HIV infections. I said that the commitment can help curb the current rate. Regardless to stigmatize gay men as being promiscuous just on the basis of their sexual orientation, is inaccurate. Society at large has a promiscuity issue. I addressed Jake’s claim that somehow God addressed homosexuality by using HIV. That is akin to saying that Hurricane Katrina was caused by “god’s wrath” against the people of New Orleans and the coastal area. That has no basis in church teaching. Additionally, a marriage commitment does help in creating a stronger commitment between two people. There are same sex relationships that involve monogamy and those that do not. Same with heterosexual people. I would like to also point out that many people have sent me the link you posted for a continual generalization of gay men, using the CDC as some sort of “proof”. One article that many of these people seem to miss, also done by the CDC is this one.

    “Negative attitudes about homosexuality can lead to rejection by friends and family, discriminatory acts and violence that harm specific individuals, and laws and policies that adversely affect the lives of many people; this can have damaging effects on the health of MSM and other sexual minorities. Homophobia, stigma and discrimination can:
    ….Affect MSM’s ability to establish and maintain long-term same-sex relationships that reduce HIV & STD risk…”

  13. DottieDay says:

    I got news for you Joe. The public relations program that has successfully messaged homosexual marriage to be the same as heterosexual marriage is just that, PR.

    If you scratch beneath the feelgood surface, you will find that the homosexual plan is to Queer marriage. To that end, disposing of the traditional ideas about marriage and making marriage truly conform to homosexual norms is next.

    Even worse than destroying traditional marriage, are the terrible health consequences of homosexual sex. The health facts don’t lie even though the medical establishment does. Will doctors warn patients about the dangers of risky even deadly sexual choices when they will be accused of hate medicine? You tell me.

  14. Ed Mechmann says:

    Discussions of the public health issues relating to homosexual behavior really are not on point for this post. My point here was that we cannot allow the vicissitudes and vagaries of civil law and social trends distract us from the Church’s evangelical mission.