How come we have so many baptized beliebers but not many people living their faith? How come we have a lot of people saying the Church needs to this or that but not many are willing to give themselves for the betterment of the universal and local Church?
There are many factors that we can consider, and we can get into the technical details of where and how things have failed and ways to improve, but I honest do not think that it will help much! Perhaps the shortest answer will be, which I genuinely believe, that we are lacking people who are willing to live their baptismal vocation. In other words, we have many chieftains and commentators but not enough workers and laborers in the Lord’s vineyards. We have plenty of people who like to talk game plans and point fingers at failures, but at the end of the day, they are simply couch-surfers or armchair philosophers with much talk but not willing to lift their fingers toward actions!
Why is the Church dying in some places? While the detailed answer could be a little bit complicated but the obvious answer concluded from numerous data points shows the lack of commitment, stewardship, and discipleship. On the one hand, we have seen many big, beautiful churches built by people of faith from generations past that are now empty in big cities across the United States of America and Europe because the locals are too busy with living their own lives. On the other hand, we have seen places where the Church is booming, even when her faithful is filled with many trials, sufferings, and persecutions, because these people choose to be proactive and committed to their faith. Unlike their more comfort-minded brethren, they do not wait, complain, point fingers, or sit back until they get their ways. They take active parts in being the Church! In a similar wordings to what the late President John F. Kennedy once said, I would like to say: “Don’t ask what they Church can do for you, ask what you can do for the Church!”
In this day and age, it is very easy to find appealing, inspirational, and clickbait style of Christianity that gives us positive satisfaction for a short while but never challenged us to be true disciples. They have no problem of making quick money, selling their books or media, but really never challenged anyone to become real followers of Christ. Hence, due to this consumeristic style of Christianity, we have more people who say that they are believers but they do not know why they believe, because they bought into thinking God is simply the inspiration or model to admire and motivate one’s self; nonetheless, there is never a real giving of one’s self to follow Him. At the end of the day, God remains out there but never really affected us.
Worship for many people has become convenience-based, turn on the radio to listen to KLOVE or a Christian radio station, come here and there once in a while, but they remain bored, detached, self-centered, needy, and resentful with their relationship with God. We have seen more people changing from one church or denomination to the next because they never wanted to find a home because they are simply looking for places to entertain, inspire, and give them what they want. Hence, we have ended up with more spectators but not disciples.
Are we intentional disciples, committed servants, grateful laborers and collaborators in the Lord’s vineyard or do we treat the Church as the supermarket for the sacraments, only needing and coming to her when we need something? For me, as a Catholic, there is no other denomination that challenge me than the Catholic Church, the one founded by Christ. No only her teachings challenge me, her saints and their lives’ examples, too! It really is not a walk in the park to be Catholics. I have found myself shaken to the core of my ego and personal way of life, stripped and taken away from what I am used to and had built up for myself, in order to follow Christ.
This life of faith is not easy, and I do not like it at times. It hurts and tiring at times, too! However, never have I found elsewhere the richness I have in Christ as His disciple and as a Catholic. I know that I am never alone. I am not the only one who got challenged and shaken. The saints experienced it, too! They stayed. They remained. Hence, that is my hope, too.
Whether I am a priest or you are a lay person… No matter what state of life we are in, we are all called to be disciples! We are called to be holy, committed, giving, sacrificial, and life-giving in living out our baptismal vocation as children of our Heavenly Father, disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and instruments of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, we were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Hence, we are called to live out our faith until we are done here on earth and return to Him who created, saved, and guides us on our journey.
We recall the Lord’s great commission found in the 28th chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew as we are called to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching what He taught us. Perhaps we have done much trying to baptize our children and catechizing them through Religious Education classes as a parish and as the Church, but we have not taken our personal and communal responsibilities seriously in forming disciples. However, we can still begin today!
Let us ask ourselves how we can we actively living the life of discipleship at home, school, work, and in our daily interactions with one another? The re-formation of our society, transformation of the Church, and renewal of our family with begin with each and every one of us when we chose to personally make Jesus’ own mission ours in living out our own baptismal vocation and promise. It begins with us not dreading when we have the opportunity to go to Mass and pray. This should never be something we avoid and resent but a natural part of who we are, for we cannot give what we do not have!
If we do not have the Lord Jesus Christ with us, received at Mass and affirmed in prayers, we cannot give Him to others. We might end up speaking a lot about Him, but we cannot radiate and share His love if we have not taken the time to savor, receive, and allow Him to be living in, with, and through us. This life of discipleship does not have to be fancy. It simply begins with our desire to walk with Him every day, choosing to pray a little bit more, letting God be the center of our words, actions, and relationships, and especially to love who we are as Christians — baptized, formed, and sent forth to preach the Gospel at all times — in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, now and for the rest of our lives.
When an eager young priest asked St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata for her advice to keep one’s life focused on prayers and works of charity, she told him: “Read the Gospel attentively, and you will see that Jesus sacrificed even charity for prayer. Do do you know why? To teach us that, without God, we are too poor to help the poor!” The advice of the saint is an important reminder for each and every one of us. Without God, we are nothing. Without knowing who we are, living out our baptismal vocation in prayer, we have nothing to give this world except empty, selfish, and at times, detrimental words and actions. Therefore, let us choose to give Christ — Him and nothing else!