The readings for this post can be found by clicking here.
A look at the religious makeup especially in the United States can leave Christians feeling morose and sad. Young people are leaving the faith, not to join another faith, but largely to abandon any faith. (They may hang on to “spirituality” as those who are “spiritual but not religious”.) With this decline in religious practice there is also a decline in other aspects of society that have formed a foundation for society. Fewer people are getting married, not just in the Church, but fewer people are getting married at all. While some point to growth in vocations, such growth does not exist.
But the first reading today provides us with hope. Think of the situation that is occurring in the Acts of the Apostles. There is persecution, forcing Christians to flee for the lives (literally!). But does this crush the faith? Far from it. We read, “The word of God continued to spread and grow.” At a time when those who were “faint of heart” might not be inspired to become Christian, “the word of God continued to spread and grow.”
So rather than to cause us sadness, perhaps the appropriate attitude for people of faith is to look inward to ask the Holy Spirit what we can do to facilitate the growth of the faith around us. I need to challenge myself. Do I authentically desire to share the faith that means so much to me? Do I seek to initiate in a gentle way those types of conversations about faith that make people feel I will listen and care? Do I provide hospitality when I see people I do not recognize in my Church? Do I make them feel welcome?
I know I do not do this often enough. Do you do any of these things? Perhaps the reason for people leaving the faith and the decline in priests is that we have kept the beauty, the power, the love of God that has changed our lives too much of a secret. Maybe people have become too familiar with scandals, parish closings, sad statistics, that they have not seen the positive. People who believe in Jesus. People who because of their faith care for the poor, the sick, the vulnerable, the outcast, the refugee, the migrant. People who bring their significant decisions to prayer, and by doing so feel the peace the world cannot give.
My hope for this podcast series, Spend 5 With Jesus, is that by coming to enter into silent prayer with Jesus, we will move beyond simply being disciples, followers of Jesus (as wonderful as that is) and will see ourselves as apostles, chosen by Jesus to share the Good News with all those we meet.