Many people have gone away from the Church. Some have chosen not to believe in God anymore. Some just do not have enough belief in themselves to patiently remain in faith, hope and trust. Plus the world is fast changing. First internet, now social media, opinions, arguments, analysis, persuasion; they are fast changing our values and morals. Today the gulf between believers and disbelievers is wider than ever before.
We are into a world of instant solutions and perhaps unrealisingly into self-gratification. When we go away, we go at optic fibre speed letting go of our anchor in God and floating into an ocean of realities. Realities come wave after wave and as long as we surf on the crest of each wave, we are okay without God … until a big wave hit us to leave us drifted and lost.
“If you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve.” (First reading)
The tug of war between believers and disbelievers take place in the reality of life on a platform of personal issues. In the past, when we are down and out it used to be easier to come back to God because there were few other alternatives, and we were deeper in our culture of belief. Today it has become more complex due to the endless multiple alternatives available and the tug away from God is far stronger.
The Church continues to be open and welcoming. It is physically present in many places. We preach from the pulpit about salvation presenting persuasive knowledge for people to come back to believe in God. We stand at the door telling everyone to come in but in reality, they aren’t even passing by anymore. Words without action is hollower than ever before. We must not remain lost in the cloud of knowledge.
We need to get out into that widening gulf to reach the drifted and lost. We need to make faith an experience. We must realize that knowledge or catechism is not the first thing they need. They need a helping hand to address their personal issues. They will do better if they first have an encounter with love. They must experience that the Lord has not abandoned them. Believers are agents of this spirit.
Many people are caught in their own disbelief. When the waves take them out, often they are spiritually and emotionally too weak to find God on their own. The church by then is too far away from them. We are the church and when we go to meet them on the platform of their personal issues, we bring the Church to them. When we do so, they experience an unconditional acceptance for who they are. Only then can they begin their journey back into believing.
Knowledge is important but it is an encounter with the Lord that convinces. Only when the heart is convince will the disbeliever then be open to knowledge. It is also only after an encounter with the Lord when we hear his question, “What about you, do you want to go away too?” When we stay to believe we will no longer drift but are found.
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time