Can I be honest?
Horribly, brutally and probably quite untactfully honest?
The hardest thing about becoming Catholic isn’t the opposition from Protestants, the weakening of friendships, the moving someplace new, the getting to know new people or the learning a new theological and liturgical language. That’s hard – but it’s also worth it. And it isn’t the relics or the saints or the pope or purgatory or anything to do with Mary. That stuff turns out to be the biggest blessings.
No, the hardest part is the lukewarmness. It’s the mushy, milky, wishy-washy, watered-down goo that seems to characterise so much of the Catholic Church – at least around where I live.
It’s the baby’s food we all seem quite content to live on, it’s the parishes that are fine with the status quo, it’s the desultory weekly mass where we go, we do our thing, maybe grab a cuppa, and then we leave. It’s like many, many Catholics have trained themselves not to expect too much, not from God, not from the Church and not from each other.
And we’re satisfied with this. We’re like the church in Laodicea, “lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold.” (Rev 3:16) Lukewarm. Just like baby food: mushy and mild.
And we are seemingly content with this. We have forgotten what it is to be hungry.
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)
I think that’s why the Year of Faith is so important. As our Papa Benedict wrote in Porta Fidei, the letter for this Year of Faith,
“We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples (cf. Jn 6:51). (Porta Fidei, 3)
Me being pretty keen on food, and this being Catholic Cravings, I think what Papa is trying to say is:
WE NEED TO GET HUNGRY AGAIN.
Our taste buds have been unused for so long. We’re used to the bland, to the mediocre, to everything that makes the Faith boring and irrelevant. But “we cannot accept that salt should become tasteless or the light be kept hidden (cf. Mt 5:13-16).” (Porta Fidei, 3)
We cannot accept this. We are not meant for mud pies or for puréed mush. We are meant for glory of Heaven and the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
We need to start craving, longing, wanting – we need to start needing. We need to be weaned off baby’s milk and onto solid food, “for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity” (Heb 5:12-13).
“Indeed, the teaching of Jesus still resounds in our day with the same power: “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life” (Jn 6:27).” (Porta Fidei, 3)
And what is this solid food, this food which endures? Jesus. It’s that simple. He is the Bread of Life, He is the Lamb of God, He is the only one who can make us hungry again and then completely satisfy us. That’s why I love that, for the Year of Faith, there’s no especially crafted prayer. It’s just the Creed. The creed which professes belief in the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Unlike the prayer for the corresponding Australian Year of Grace, I don’t really think we need a “new wave of grace”, or that “light of Christ may burn more brightly in our lives”? It seems to me that we need some grace and some light. We need to go back and discover our hunger and our need for grace.
At this junction, at least it seems to me, what we need is not “new ways of living the Gospel” but to be reacquainted with the Gospel itself. Maybe that’s harsh; but it’s coming from a raw and often frustrated place.
This is what we need: a little more Credo and a little less mumbo-jumbo.
It’s what I’m longing to see in the Church in Australia, frustrating as She often is. As Christ says to the church in Laodicea, which was neither hot nor cold,
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev 3:19-20)
Christ is standing at the door, the Door of Faith, which is “always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church… To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime.” (Porta Fidei, 1)
But to begin this journey and even more, to endure to the end, we need the solid food that brings us to maturity and endures to eternal life.
Church, we need bread and we need some meat.
We need Jesus.