God and the world

From a well-known Catholic blogger: “Parish programs are supposed to be about strenghtening [sic] parishioners to live the gospel out in the world. That would, you would think, be the point of religious ed programs or liturgy committee meetings.” You hear such things all the time, and that was certainly the point of the updated Episcopalian liturgy I used to attend every week. But is it true that the point of Christianity is to have people go out and do things in the world? If so, it’s not clear why Christ put love of God before love of neighbor. (Matthew 22:35-40.)

It seems to me that Christianity is not primarily a religion of moral striving or good social relations. I admire Confucianism, but it’s not Christianity. The Mass and the other sacraments—which are the main thing in a parish—are God’s way of making himself available to sinners, and the point of a parish and its programs is to facilitate acceptance of the gift. As the gift is accepted people’s lives will change and they will do different things in the world, but that’s a result and not the main point. God has his own worth, and however good social engagement may be it is not the reason we are concerned with Him. Which is—unfortunately—what is conveyed by saying that the point of a parish is to strengthen the laity to go out and do things.

5 thoughts on “God and the world”

  1. Yes, but. A problem at all
    Yes, but. A problem at all too many American RC parishes is the absence of any common understanding of the requirements of Christian morality. If you attend mass in the typical parish, you cannot safely make any assumptions about the moral beliefs of the person sitting beside you. A friend served on a parish council for three years. One member was living with his concubine, and plainly said so (more euphemously) by way of introduction when new members joined the board. No one objected or even commented, but in today’s church that would have required a bit of courage.


  2. It seems to me though that
    It seems to me though that the collapse of common moral understandings has gone hand in hand with the conviction that the purpose of the liturgy etc. is to prepare the people to go out and do things.

    That’s not as odd as it seems. If the point of the Church is to do things in society and change the world, rather than touch us at the center of what we are, then it’s easy to get the impression that our religious duties are essentially public and the Church ought to lay off our private life, which is really none of its business.

  3. She has since expanded on
    She has since expanded on the idea from the post you quote. If you read the newer (June 23rd) post I think you’ll see that you two are closer than you think.

    She’s her concern, I think, is mostly with a tendency to consider “activity” at the parish to be a measure of spiritual health. And she’s quite explicit (in the latest post) in saying that Christian witness to the world won’t come without conversion of heart. In fact, she’s telling people that the parish should be organized around making that conversion happen.

    I quote:
    ” When your parish is rich with prayer and devotions of every kind, that will meet your needs no matter who you are and what your inclination – whether you are nourished by Eucharistic Adoration, time to study the Scriptures, rosaries, the Liturgy of the Hours, whatever….and when that parish’s Eucharistic liturgies are imbued with a sense that the One we meet here is Jesus and that is the reason we are here, … COPY EXCISED HERE … ..go out.”

  4. Sorry about the non-extant
    Sorry about the non-extant email address on the previous (and this) comment. Spambots collect addresses for junk emailers and I just don’t like to give them any more ammunition than they already have.

  5. I’m glad she’s expanded her
    I’m glad she’s expanded her thoughts. I didn’t want to stick her too much with the view, which is why I didn’t mention her name, but it’s often held in a one-sided way and so seemed worth commenting on.

    It’s OK to use a dummy address for whatever reason.


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