THE CHURCH IS NOT THE MOVIES OR A RESTUARANT
Brothers and Sisters,
I want to give you two sad dates in Christian history – and I admit that this is not a great way to start any article on helping you be a better Christian. First date: 1054AD, that is the year of what came to be called in the historical records as the “Great Schism.” I don’t have room here to explain the historical and theological background that led to this event; for now I can only simple tell you that it separated many Christians from the Pope in Rome and began the various Orthodox national Christians (you may have heard of Russian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox, and many more).
The second date is 1517AD; this was the year that began the various protestant groups in Central and Western Europe. Again, many people separated from the Pope in Rome and began the so-called “fragmentation of Christendom” where Christians could no longer be seen as a united group of people. Again, there is not room here to discuss the various historical and theological concerns.
In the twenty-first century, non-Christians and (sadly) many Christians as well see the various groups of Christians as nothing all-that-different from various movies or restaurants from-which they can choose. This is a major concern for priests around the world.
Here’s what I mean: when I have time to watch a movie I will usually choose the one that I am guessing will be the most entertaining. Sometimes this will be in the theater and one that I had seen advertised or, perhaps, heard about form a friend. Maybe I will stay at the Rectory and watch a movie on a streaming service – again, picking one that sounded the most entertaining.
Similarly, if I have the opportunity to go to a restaurant to eat a meal, you can bet your bottom dollar that I am not going to choose a restaurant that seems to have “boring” food. I might choose something familiar, true, but it will be something that I expect that will be to my liking.
The thing is that the Holy Faith is not like a restaurant of a weekend movie. Going to Mass is not something chosen because it is suspected to be the most entertaining, fun, or even something geared towards one’s liking. That might sound almost disparaging by modern standards, but it is the case. Holy Mother Church, the sacraments, and the Mass are here to get us to Heaven. The grave concern that the Church worries over these days is that people are leaving the Holy Faith because it is not as entertaining as a movie or not as to their taste as their favorite restaurant. As much as a try to cater the homily and my prayer at Mass to be pleasing and comforting, that is not the ultimate goal of what I do. Both the Church and Christ Himself have made it clear that priests will be judged on whether they helped people get into Heaven. If all I have done is be entertaining, then I would have failed at my job.
God be near,