Seek the Language of Today’s Faith
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
There’s a common sentiment that life is too complicated for an individual to make much difference. That’s an understandable reaction to the immense, entrenched power centers of contemporary society. An astounding amount of influence lies in the hands of relatively few people. It’s tempting to take the attitude that we’re swept along by the tides of modern life rather than aggressively seek ways to steer those currents for the better.
On the other hand, Christian spiritual language is full of images of overcoming the power of the devil. We constantly hear how God gives us the strength through prayer and the sacraments to stand up to supernatural evil and find supernatural blessings. Such ideas held powerful meaning for Christians who saw the powers of heaven and hell controlling everything from planets to plagues, from stars to starvation. Today’s understanding of reality demands a different conversation.
Where’s an understandable explanation of how the sacraments strengthen us to stand in solidarity for economic injustice? Who’s promoting prayer to overcome the nationalism that keeps us fighting wars? How do we pray for the strength, in a consumerist society, to take only what we need rather than all we can grab from life’s platter? Is there a prayer that the Holy Spirit will help us find truth in the babble of information thrown at us? Who’s the patron saint of keeping one’s integrity in the push and shove of democracy?
This isn’t disdainful carping. We face huge difficulties and our Church possesses millennia of experience and wisdom that could help us find the path through them. The question is will we demand those resources from the teachers whose job it is to couch our heritage in a useful form? There’s another question: do we still believe that our Church has practical guidance for 21 century Westerners trying to live the Way of Jesus?
The old saying is that generals always prepare to fight the last war. We can’t afford to content ourselves with spiritual teachings that met the needs of Christians four and five centuries ago.