The Church (as One Body and as many members) looks inward, to detect whatever must be cut off or plucked out; she looks outward, to discover and attend to human need in its myriad forms; and she looks upward, to the ever-present Source of her strength.
Jesus seems to tolerate the idea that people not in the fold of the Church are doing many good things out there in His Name. While Jesus established the Catholic Church as the visible, reliable means of salvation in the world, Catholics do not have the monopoly on grace and good works. But in another place Jesus says, “To whom much is given, much is expected” (Lk 12:48). Through the Sacred Liturgy, Catholics have the opportunity to encounter the Blessed Trinity in Word and Sacrament; in our doctrines, we have come to know the Truth that sets us free (Jn 8:32); our moral teachings offer a sure pattern for living according to the mind and heart of Christ; and we can never exhaust the 2,000 year legacy of Christian prayer in the lives of the saints. How good we have it! The actions of gratitude are the best response to the blessings of our holy faith.
We Catholics draw breath in a rich atmosphere. We’d be most foolish to walk through life holding our nose, suffocating ourselves. Jesus directs us to do whatever is necessary to draw most deeply from the wellsprings of grace. If any sinful practice or attitude persists in us, it has to go. We want to surrender all that hinders the fullness of life that the Lord desires for us, His beloved children. In addition, we must strive to be a good example to the impressionable and unformed. Recently I saw a plaque that said, “People who complain about this new generation must ask who formed them”…or who didn’t form them! The truth is, one way or another, we are all forming others and being formed at the same time.
Ten years ago when the clergy abuse scandal first broke out, Catholics (and priests in particular) had to take their licks for failing to protect the little ones. We had the immediate fallout, and since then, we’ve embarked upon the rebuilding of trust. We’d be foolish to say that everything’s been A-OK; and we’ve also had to admit, rather recently, that the sixth commandment isn’t the only one violated in the abuse of power. It’s easy for me to judge and tsk-tsk, but it always brings me back to the mirror, where the Lord calls me to take stock with honesty and confidence in His mercy, and to move forward with the next right choice.
The Christian life is far more than avoiding trouble, of course; it is an adventure in self-giving love. It is taking opportunities to breathe in the mercies of our Savior by asking forgiveness for our sins, by forgiving others’ offenses, by becoming aware of God’s presence in times of activity and times of silence, by attending to others in their needs…and yes, by turning talk into action! We have the heritage of our Catholic faith, the devotion of Our Lady and all the angels and saints; we are never alone. So with confidence let us look inward to discover both what we must discard and what we should retain; let us look outward to the needs all around us; and let us look upward for God’s grace to sustain us in this adventure.