Emotional and cultural confusion about the Church seems everywhere. Like most Catholics, I hang on and attend my parish even though attendance and donations are down. Priests I know personally, or through my work, are largely dispirited. A smaller group journeys on in faith and simple acceptance of the mess the Church has always been at the human level.
Our future is likely to become more like our past. The Jesus Movement centered on the Sermon on the Mount more than on Canon Law. The sacrifice of Jesus is not just celebrated through the Mass, but through the sacrifices of those who truly act like Jesus. There was no eucharistic adoration in the early Church; but people believed where two or more were gathered in his name, Jesus was there in their midst. A monstrance is a poor substitute for action, albeit a comforting meditation. Staring at a host mounted in a golden setting however can become more than gilding a lily : it can be a distortion. We know what Mother Theresa did as prayer and worship; and we saw her Imitation of Christ was not in the written text but in her daily assistance to the poor. He style of Christianity is both old and new Church.
Would that we could gather in church to refresh and seek ways to serve the poor and the lonely. Many of us have been addicted to false religious ideas and to a cultural Catholicism that often led us away from Jesus, while allowing us to think that we were fully within the church he had founded. Most of us realize that today Jesus could not be a candidate for the priesthood within our Rome-centered Church. Our Church is laden with regulations and self-protection : those very cultural forces that Jesus sought to reform within Judaism by his witnessing to a new sense of God's love. Jesus presented a new divine call that subordinates rituals and rules to the goals of compassion, service and love. Where can we gather today to answer that call?
We realize our Church grew out of a deep love for Jesus and the desire to "capture" him forever; but control can be a real enemy, and we've now become rigid and afraid. Loving Jesus deeply, we built walls to preserve him and thereby we've made Roman Catholic Christianity somewhat plastic. We built a protective fortress, and now our Church is dying. Not for everyone perhaps, but as a community of faith, our Church has become a weaker means of bringing Jesus to a new generation.
When as Christians we accepted the protection of kings, we began to act like them. As a church we created armies and we killed people. We built palaces and said it was all for the glory of Jesus. But we became more like the kings than like the simple God-Man, the atomic gift from the God we call Our Father. Jesus taught us to work through the commandments and the Sermon on the Mount; but our bishops built a complex system that reduces much of the intended good. In spite of this, as Catholic individuals, we journey on seeking Jesus, the light we need for our souls to grow toward the Divine.
Therefore we must build communities that lead us to Jesus and call us to work for peace, justice, a love for people and for the entire natural universe. This will be our new Church. We have seen the enemy, and it is not just our overblown episcopacy and Vatican culture. Yes, we have tired of our costumed cardinals and of clerical careerism; and while we like and respect many bishops, as a group they have failed us, as has the pope. But we are all called to be apostles. Jesus must be our center; and we, quarrelsome and confused, must try to do as Jesus did. We must rebuild using every true saint of our generation as our tutor on how to overcome institutional failure.
Jesus is still our shepherd. We shall not want if we follow him. This is our task. This will be our new Church. The Holy Spirit will help us. Jesus promised!