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.