There is a great concern in the Catholic Church these days, it is the loss of generations. People are not participating in the life of the church.
It clearly shows in Europe and United States, and I would be willing to be Canada too, but some are saying that it is creeping into Mexico. It clearly shows in the younger generations, but it transcends them all. It is not even purely an anglo issue in this country; third generation latinos, filipinos are either leaving the church or ignoring the church.
This is a great concern.
Of course, many look for reasons and for blame. There is no one particular, but I think there is a strong common reason that effects those in the US and Europe; it is a philosophy that runs contrary to Catholicism.
The philosophy of rugged individualism.
This focus on the “I” and that what is most important is “My rights”. We see this in our attitudes that I can own whatever I want, I can have as many guns as I want, I can do with MY body whatever I want, I can marry whoever and as many times as I want, It is MY money; I can believe in whatever way I want, in whatever I want. This is “my” country.
Our gospel today tells us that it is never only about “me”, or “I”; it is always Me, I in relationship to you and all.
Look what Peter did, he took Jesus aside, alone to correct him, because what Jesus was saying did not conform to his own personal beliefs. He takes Jesus away from the community that Jesus had formed.
Jesus formed a community, the Church. The church is a community that gathers together to unify the faith given to us by God. Corrections, adaptation, clarifications are meant to be through community. They are not made by one person, no individual, not even the Pope. Yes, he can effect superficial changes, but in matters of the faith, not even he can do this alone. It must happen through the Church.
So it is never a matter of “my” faith, but the faith “I” receive, the gift given to me through the Church.
Peter got that message in a particular way. See, I think Peter’s ego got the best of him. Remember in last week’s Gospel he was told by Jesus that he was the rock. I think that old human ego took over. And when Jesus started talking about having to suffer….well… He was also worried about protecting his own you know what! Because if Jesus were to suffer greatly, that means he too would have to.
That is exactly what Jesus then tells his disciples. His life, his very being is given for all. He will give of himself for the good of all. And they will too, as will all disciples. He is not about his own personal rights, etc…He is about giving of self.
This is his nature, and this is our own nature.
Think about it, we are created in God’s own image, and first of all God is a community, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and second God gives of God’s very self for all. God is love. This is the human nature.
This is us. Our individuality, our uniqueness, our person is great. It is to be treated with respect. Each of us, and every human person, every life is truly unique. But we are not ourselves only for ourselves. That uniqueness, the individuality is meant to be given for the good of all.
That means there is a relationship between the I and We. It can be tense, but true life is found when the “I” gives to the good of the We. Given freely, as Jesus gave of his life freely. What needs to die are these egos that we have that says my needs are more important that your needs; my rights take precedence over all other rights, MY desires are most important….etc.
People do not like this. They say the Church can’t tell me what “I” can do or not do. People get angry and mad because the church/parish does not do what “I” want.
People go to other non catholic or non christian churches because they feel good about themselves, they get to sing fun songs, sip their coffees, follow a so called easier path. People will give for others in an event, especially those that draw attention to me or those that are fun, like poor Ice water over their heads, but commit long term….forget that, “My” time is too important.
The Church is a community. The rugged individual philosophy has no place it it.
This will not be and is not a popular message. Catholics will not like it because it will be perceived as “Anti-American.” People will call it socialism, marxism etc, which it is not.
It is as in the first reading, there will be challenge to the culture.
If we have any chance of transforming this world and reducing the evil in this world, the evil of abortions, the evil of wars, the evil of poverty, then we who are baptized need to turn our backs to this idea that pervades our society that the “I” is superior.
That is what we did ritually in Baptism & Confirmation; that is what we do in Marriage and Holy Orders, and that is what we reinforce through Eucharist.
We remember that Christ gave of himself, out of love.
We remember that God, the all powerful, eternal creator of all, gave and gives of God’s very self for us.
We remember that our very life, our salvation is found in giving of self.
And we go and do it, live it and experience.