In a final thought from the Convention, and thinking about Vatican II…
Vatican II did not do away with a sense of sin; yet some Catholics act like it was part of its message. Some things that were strong before in the Church, like devotions, holy hours and adoration, confessions, fidelity to Sunday Mass, respect to priests, and supporting vocations to service to the Church, these things have taken a hit in the last few decades, and it points to a serious problem of people in the Church who have tried to no longer acknowledge sin in their lives and their continuing need for conversion into the holiness of Christ. One can mis-call it “freedom.” Yet we are not free from our responsiblities as members of the Faithful and disciples of Christ and His Eucharist. What we are called to be free from is our sin . The Catholic petition at Mass is: “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil… In your mercy, keep us free from sin and…distress.” In John’s epistle, God writes through his apostle to the church: “Little children, do not sin.”
Vatican II has been used as an excuse for true living of the Catholic Way. “They have pushed away from guilt, thinking it to be liberating, but when all the time it has been the convictions of the Holy Spirit they have put off,” said a person at “Participation: Liturgy-Life-Mission.” In our so-named convention, I would have liked to have heard more of this kind of straight talk. In fact, even amidst all the great music of the conference, I wondered why I had not heard from any speaker in how we are dealing with such a sinful the world at this time. Pastoral musicians need to ask: Are we writing music and prayers in response to the crisis about us? Are we calling people to repentance to God? Are we urging people to confess their need for God? Many are hurt and lost, and some sins are quite grave that are commonplace today.
As I learned a few new songs of crying out to God, I was glad that some convention songs touched on this theme, such as: Marty Haugan’s song “I will glory in The Cross” and Nicholas Palmer’s “Fix Me, Jesus” and Irene Nowell ‘s Grail Psalm rendition of Psalm 88 (Lord my God, I call for help by day, I cry at night before you), yet along with it, I wondered if a speaker could have addressed our regress in these times meant for progress: there is much disobedience and scandal and sinning going on right now. Vatican II and its renewal is getting terribly slowed by sin in the Body of Christ.
Are we not clear in the Body of Christ, sometimes, of what is displeasing or pleasing to the Lord in coming to His table or into His house? While the nice song goes: “All are welcome here” should we not also remind people Who the Host of this Assembly is, and what He might expect from gatherers? All behavior is not welcome here. Jesus, Who calls us, began His ministry in saying: “Repent.”
While God is merciful and just and slow to judge, He eventually will want us to respond into His mercy (which requires repentance and conversion) and He will want us to act in justice (which ain’t easy!!) and He will expect us to move to His grace, not to stay stubborn and hard-to-get. Some want to come to the banquet of the Lamb table without their wedding garments on. It’s not a good plan. Jesus told a parable about that. Matthew 22. So–when does that parable of the Lord apply, and to whom? Who needs to be cleansed and walk in holiness to our God?
Yet in first coming into the House of God (the Catholic church), I would hope the sinner in search of grace will not first meet judgment or coldness or indifference from the Lord’s member of the House. That IS important, and probably the message behind the song: “All are welcome.”
But back to addressing the Catholic who might think that conversion is not their call. When we come into God’s Presence, He has a change waiting for us. He wants to take away dark and put in His Light. He wants to take out fear (by our repentance of it) and put in His courage and strength. He wants us to know Him better, not just as an acquiantance or pal. Do some Catholics think that acknowledging the Lordship of Christ and cooperaton into His holiness is an option (leaving room for serious sin to remain comfortably in their lives)? ! I raise this thought here because I thought I caught some of that mindset even among some conventioneers and perhaps in an ’elder’ of the movement this week.
Reluctance to submit to God is everywhere. Yet Scripture says it clearly: “If you do not acknowledge Me before the Father in Heaven, then I will not acknowledge you.” Luke 12:8 and Luke 13:27. We still have a call to obedience under the Lord. Acknowledging God is accepting His Truth and Authority, among other things. We also regard God’s purity. Jesus did say in the Beatitudes
that ”Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” With that in mind, I still think that repentance and purity is the call to all fellow Catholics, with a regular use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for their proper presentation to Our Lord at Mass. I think that a serious sin–unrepented to God via His Church–is a stain brought to the liturgy. It disrupts the liturgy more than we know. People ought to confess their serious sins to God and be at peace with Him as they best preparation for liturgy. (I go once a month.)
The convention did offer two sure opportunities for people to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the week, so I know the leaders believed in it (in the NPM office)!
Yet I am not convinced that many regular Catholics “get” this part of their faith. Jesus inspired St. Paul to say to the Church in Corinth: “And all things are of God: He has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation. Know this: That God comes in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, through a Redeemer, so not to leave us to our own trespasses and guilt; but has committed to us His Word. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
It sounds to me by that verse that God is still in the reconciling work, and not retired from it after the Cross, but instead applying His Mercy from Calvary to needy persons for reconciliation, or friendship back to God. God also has chosen ambassadors for reconciling work (to use The Sacrament) and it is clear that Paul the Apostle and priest understands himself to be such a man of ministry for this work.
In Liturgy, I am usually a bit concerned for the whole parish that they may not be using me (or other priests) properly and frequently enough for cleansing of their sins, so as to approach the altar in all sincerity. They may be awfully downplaying their need for confession in The Church. Some Catholics even might be a bit casual about their sins. But a Bible verse of our Saviour suggests a different course: Matt. 5:24 says:
“Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.” (Douay-Rh. Bible)
That Bible verse does not need an “updating” of fixing up or reinterpretation— I think it holds true that God wants people to use the Sacrament of Reconciliation more often.
In Vatican II’s call for openness (Aggiornamento, Italian for “A bringing up to date”), I heard that as a call from God through His pontiff John 23 for freshness in the Church. God says: Get the stale air and stagnancy out and flee from the status quo mentality. Then, Let the Spirit work!
Some hear it in another interpretation, as if they are being given an ‘open’ permission to look past their own sins as “no big deal”, and to likewise look past sins in other people, and to simply to love the sinner. Yet the Catholic adage is to love the sinner but still hate the sin. Sin is still bad. We will need to be a people who keep fighting against it.
So–is openness a new word for an excuse for unrepentance? There’s the tough one to sort out theologically and socially! Some argue what that Aggiornamento word means. Yet how are we to be “up to date,” but while sinning, when following the Lord? Hmmm…. Why is the Cross of Jesus still our Catholic symbol? Does it have to do with our present need for it? Or our need for the Lord’s Sacrifice over and finished? Like, “I’m saved and that settles it.” Does that approach hold up before God?
So I was wondering…. What modern things, so unbecoming to God, are being passed on, in the culture, as seen to be an up to date and ok issue (an not a sin problem to them)? I think that the living together (fornication) issue pretty much applies here as an example of something that is not excused by “openness.” (Yet at the Convention, a few people wanted to apply that Aggiornamento expression to mean open leniency from God and the Church on sexual issues. ‘Interesting.)
Well, we do have a great need for our Savior, and we have a Great Savior for our need.
I can end with the words of a Spiritual that we were re-introduced to at the convention: Here’s the words: There is more love somewhere, somewhere. There is more love somewhere, somewhere. I’m gonna keep on till I find it. There is more love somewhere, ‘gonna keep on till I find it.