by Fr Richard Heilman | June 4, 2017 10:14 AM
“If men and women are really made for heroism and glory, made to stand in the presence of the living God, they can never be satisfied with bourgeois, mediocre, feel-good religion. They’ll never be fed by ugly worship and shallow moralizing. But that’s what we too often give them.” –Archbishop Charles Chaput
A popular phase used today is, “I am spiritual but not religious.” This stance against organized religion is usually provoked by the far too many bad examples within organized religion who portray the opposite: “I am religious but not spiritual.”
Just the other day I heard about a very curious encounter between two people. I was not privy to their identity, which is good, but the comments revolved around one person inviting the other to our monthly evenings of reflection. These are very powerful evenings in which the men attend on First Fridays and the Women attend on Third Fridays. The evening offers Eucharistic Adoration, the Sacrament of Confession and a very powerful talk by a priest. The conversation simply went like this … “You should join us for these evenings.” And the reply, “No thanks, I am not that holy.”
This disengaged, empty religiosity has become engrained over the past fifty years. In most quarters of Catholicism, the calculation is that we need to make Catholicism soft, with easy access for those who are looking to enter. Let’s make our Masses fun and entertaining, while we refrain from any talk about difficult issues. We don’t want to chase anyone away. Those who challenge this soft Catholicism receive the automatic response, “At least they’re here.” We need to ask, “Who’s here?”
Not unlike the generation who showered their children with participation trophies, we have created “Catholic Snowflakes.” Is it any wonder why any invitation to “take one’s faith seriously” is just far too much to ask our people? Instead, we end up tiptoeing around any sensitive issue that might upset these “Catholic Snowflakes,” as we lower the bar as to what it means to be a disciple of Christ. In the end, we end up with those who are, “religious but not spiritual.” Hence, we look virtually no different from the worldly, and we have little or nothing to offer potential disciples. In fact, we are left to be called the hypocrites that we are.
I wrote about this in my book, Church Militant Field Manual: Special Forces Training for the Life in Christ:
The Soldier’s Creed of the United States Army states: “I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.” Former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens said: “One of the things that makes a warrior into a warrior is that they are dedicated to developing their strength in service to others.”
Whether it’s a Navy SEAL or a Saint, we admire those who put it all on the line — go “all in!” — those who are totally dedicated to the mission. In the military, this dedication is revealed in the WARRIOR ETHOS, four simple lines embedded in the Soldier’s Creed:
>I will always place the mission first.
>I will never accept defeat.
>I will never quit.
>I will never leave a fallen comrade.
Sustained and developed through discipline, commitment, and pride, these four lines motivate every soldier to persevere and, ultimately, to refuse defeat. What would happen if we dedicated ourselves to the training and mission of Jesus Christ with the same intensity Eric Greitens and his comrades dedicated themselves to the “Warrior Ethos” and to their training to become Navy SEALs? What is keeping us from becoming, in essence, SEALS for Christ?
You see? Our Catholicism-lite has been an abysmal failure. Christ never worried about who He offended – telling us to cut off our hand or pluck out our eye – as He knew that this “all in”, totally dedicated version of our faith was not only what is needed to impact the world and stand against the forces of evil, but it is the only one that will attract true disciples filled with zeal for the mission.
Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. This is a real power, not to just get our Sunday obligation out of the way, but to be inflamed by the power of God to “change the world.” More than anything, it is a power that transforms us from unspiritual to spiritual.
So, we can see that our aim is to invite souls to become more interior and to tend to union with God. As long as they linger in an egocentric existence, they remain darkened in this impoverished and diminished existence. St. Paul wrote:
“The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14).
With this in mind, we become aware of the true or authentic nature of evangelization. All efforts must be made to assist the faithful in becoming “more open” to the first gift of the Holy Spirit: “Awe and Wonder;” to help them move from “unspiritual man” to “spiritual man.” If we miss this, we miss everything.
That’s what we have been doing here at these parishes. Whether it is obedience or reverence or teaching truth, we have been calling all of us to lay hold of the power of the Holy Spirit and move from unspiritual man to spiritual man.
You may notice that, at the conclusion of our General Intercessions, I offer the same prayer every time. This is the ancient Veni, Sancte Spiritus prayer that asks God to inflame all of us with this power. Let’s open our hearts and cooperate with this amazing gift of the Holy Spirit:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Your love.
(This was my homily for Pentecost, June 4, 2017)
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