Is The Mission of the Church Confused?
Frank Bompas, Johannesburg – There have been a few articles in The Southern Cross detailing challenges made by conservative Catholics to Pope Francis, accusing him of undermining the teachings of the Church.
While these charges have little merit, I do believe that Pope Francis and the whole Church need to be challenged about what is being done to counter the massive exodus from Catholicism and in fact from Christianity as a whole.
What the mission of the Church is and how it can be accomplished is not well understood or formulated. Rightly or wrongly, I feel that Pope Francis and other Church leaders seem to be unfocused and lack direction.
Heaviness of Spirit
I think there is also a great ennui and an overbearing heaviness of spirit undermining the Church that we need to throw off.
At bottom, lots of Church institutions in many places do not seem to fully understand what the message of the Gospel as it applies to the modern world is; how it should be preached and taught, and how it should be lived out.
The work of Vatican II in rediscovering the nature and mission of the Church has not been energetically pursued and we are supporting an institution whose structures and ministry are largely ineffective in halting the slide towards religious indifference, agnosticism and atheism.
This does not mean that the Gospel is irrelevant: it means that in most of the Church’s ministries and activities what Christ offers to us and how we need to respond is not being properly grasped or effectively communicated. Neither is his teaching lived out in a credible fashion. And because of this, people find little reason to stay within the Catholic Church or even to be committed Christians.
There are in fact many immensely successful church groups that have enormous congregations and huge followings on TV and social media, and we would do well to see what these groups are doing and why people are attracted to them.
A Balanced Devotion
The truth is that the Gospel has a greater appeal and inspiration than ever. It is the Church that has distorted and ignored the most critical aspects of scripture while inordinately engaging on less important points of doctrine.
A balanced devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the saints is an essential part of Catholic spirituality but an example of exaggerated and distorted Catholic belief appeared in the enclosure in a recent edition of The Southern Cross, promoting a book on the message of Fatima.
Instead of explaining what the message of Fatima is, it seemed to promote Marian devotion, using the word “adoration” to describe the honour we Catholics give to Mary. It also asks us to look into “Her” eyes, using the capitalised pronoun that orthodox believers should apply only to the Deity.
Mary never focuses our attention on honouring her, but always points us to the redemptive work of her Son. She is constantly begging us to repent and purify our lives.
I am sure that the intentions of the promoters of this book were good, but the language used seems to indicate extreme and exaggerated Marian spirituality that is at odds with authentic Catholic teaching and can damage the Church.
God’s Love Poured into Our Hearts Through Jesus
What the Church needs to discover and preach is the love and power of God poured into Christ to heal and transform broken and lost men and women in every nation and culture.
We need to bring people to the Man who healed the sick, raised the dead, and releases us from satanic bondage. We need to do as St Francis of Assisi did: reexamine the Gospel and take it as the model for the mission of the Church and discipleship.
The One we need to encounter to discover and experience God’s mercy and restoration is Jesus, not Mary.
And if we look at any of the accepted Marian apparitions we will find that Mary is never self-serving but encourages us to embrace her Son with the same utter self-giving that she had herself.