Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Twisted Words? On Presenting the Faith Whole-Heartedly

“As far as theological views of this sort are concerned, finally, quite a number of people have the abiding impression that the church’s faith is like a jellyfish: no one can get a grip on it and it has no firm center. It is on the many halfhearted interpretations of the biblical Word that can be found everywhere that a sickly Christianity takes its stand—a Christianity that is no longer true to itself and that consequently cannot radiate encouragement and enthusiasm. It gives, instead, the impression of being an organization that keeps on talking although it has nothing else to say, because twisted words are not convincing and are only concerned to hide their emptiness.” 
—Joseph Ratzinger, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of the Creation and Fall (1981), p. 8.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in a homily given when he was Archbishop of Munich and Friesing, hit the proverbial nail on the proverbial head here in describing the typically modern approach to theology and faith. The sense you get from some folks is that it's all a mystery, there are various schools of thought, it's all so hard to sort out, and who can really say? And anyway, what with all the modern advances in something or other, and our superior knowledge and insight—I mean, it's 2016!—we surely have progressed beyond the conclusions of Bronze Age tribes and medieval monks, haven't we? So instead, let's re-cast our faith in the mold of whatever the prevailing opinion of the day is, always ready to cast it aside when it too becomes, gasp, outdated.

This seems the default position among many, and no wonder it's been a less than attractive option on the spiritual menu. Who wants lukewarm soup? Who wants half-cooked potatoes? Who wants kale... at all? A watered down wine will be spat out by anyone with any taste for the stuff, and a watered down faith will not satisfy anyone in any lasting way. It is a fact easily established by sociological data that parishes and dioceses that preach sound doctrine and celebrate beautiful liturgies have high Mass attendance, attract high numbers of converts, and produce high numbers of vocations, while parishes and dioceses that bend over backward to accommodate the direction the winds are blowing this week are sparsely populated and quickly dying out.

This is due to the simple fact that the truth fulfills us and makes us free to live our lives in accordance with our God-given nature, to live in friendship with God and fulfill the call to goodness, and that the truth of beauty and the beauty of truth are more attractive than any amount of ear tickling. Truth satisfies, beauty satisfies, goodness satisfies, because these are of God, and God alone satisfies.