I bet you know them too. Those acquaintances or relatives who loudly pronounce: “Church, if I went to Church, the whole building would fall down.” What is that anyway? Fear, laziness, inflated ego, what? That quote always seems to me like a person who has some pride in their latent sinfulness and wants to brag about it. Whatever it is, who would really want to become the world champion of sinners or would actually believe that they already are?
Besides being miffed when I hear this comment, a statement like this really makes me sad. I think it’s revealing of confusion, uncertainty and embarrassment in general. My reaction is full of sadness because folks who can make a statement like that are missing out on the Love of God and all the things that come along with that.
If you have friends or relatives who live that way be aware that they have made a choice to live in a state of “less than”. These folks can never be as peaceful, as loved, as blessed or as cared for as God wants them to be. Why, because they simply don’t understand God and the way that he is constantly reaching out to each of us. Church attendance is really only scratching the surface of the way God wants to be in our lives. When a person declares that their attendance at church would engender a monumental response from the heavens they are simply misinformed and cheating only themselves.
So what’s the counter that might change their point of view? If you know anything about the history of the faith in the last 2000 or so years, you have all the ammo that you need to give them something to think about. What about our Saints, our local heroes? Most of them were sinners of one kind or another at one time or another. Let’s talk about two of the worse who really did deserve the Church to fall in on their head, but that never happened.
Because we are not perfect humans all of us are familiar with sin. The truth of the faith, though, is that it is literally “impossible” to “sin our way” out of God’s favor and love. Take St. Paul for instance. He had worked his whole life to become a very well-schooled Pharisee and believed whole heartedly that any murder of Christians that he could do was an absolute service to the Law. But then there was that little incident of blinding light and a voice saying: “I am Jesus and you are persecuting me.” Of course Paul went on to become the Apostle to the Gentiles and write two thirds of the New Testament. Good thing the Church didn’t fall on his head.
For our modern times we can’t ignore Dorothy Day. This was a determined woman who served the poor right here in America. She was an activist who worked for such social causes as pacifism and women’s suffrage through the prism of the Catholic Church. She established the Catholic Worker Movement and lived in the 1920’s through the 1940’s in the slums of New York with her poor and alcoholics. During her entire life, though she was far from a saint. She converted at the age of 30 but continuously took lovers, smoked copiously, married, divorced, committed adultery and had a child out of wed lock. Dorothy died at the age of 83. During her entire life, however this sums up her heartfelt feelings about the Church: [We know] “that we will be back in the confessional, again and again. I believe in the sacraments. I believe grace is conferred through the sacraments. I believe the priest is empowered to forgive sins. Grace is defined as ‘participating in the divine life.’ So little by little we are putting off the old man and putting on the new. Actually, ‘putting on Christ.’” (Servant of God Dorothy Day, from an open letter to Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J.)
Today, Dorothy’s cause for canonization is underway. She was a realist and did not tout her repeated sinfulness. If you have a friend or dear one who “wants” to believe that they are too sinful for Church, be patient. Just tell them about St. Paul or Dorothy Day. Plant the seed.
Copyright© 2016, Kathryn M. Cunningham