Most Reverend Michael Mulvey is
bishop of the Diocese of Corpus Christi.
There is a thought in many sectors today that places an unhealthy emphasis on change. This mentality, more often than not, urges us to chase after the latest fads—whether it be in clothes, electronic or media gadgets, but also in ideology, political correctness or way of life.
The allure is to be “with it” and “up with the times.” Everything seems to be about a supposed progress or moving forward as if the more “new” something is, the better it is and the better we are. The ironic thing is that this mentality itself is nothing new. Today’s fads quickly become tomorrow’s out-of-date trends, and we are on to pursue something new.
When we live our lives in such a way, we risk losing the very core of what’s happening around us and the very core of what and who we are as individual sons and daughters of God and as a community of the Body of Christ. Our calling as Christians is not to adapt ourselves to the mentality of the world, but to have the mind of Christ in this day and age, in every day and age in which we find ourselves. Our calling is to be Jesus Christ, to be His Body the Church, in the midst of the world, to be leaven, to be salt, to be his light (cf. Mt 5:13-16) to a world that seems to be endlessly chasing after fads in an attempt to find itself, only to lose itself. We cannot be the bedrock of Christ to the world nor bring Christ’s hope if we lose our identity as his sons and daughters, failing to live according to the Christian character that was imprinted upon us in our baptism.
A theologian who lived around the time of the Second Vatican Council observed that the number one problem for atheists is Christians. By this, he meant that those who proclaim Christ with their mouths but deny him with their actions is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable.
The world entices us with a self-centeredness that seeks to place “I” or “me” at the center of all. It is what “I” want; “I” am the standard; it is what makes “me” feel good. However, in our Christian identity, rooted in the mysterious inner life of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—we discover that we are made for communion with God and with others.
When we turn to the Sacred Scriptures, we see, most especially in the Acts of the Apostles, that this is how the Church began. The Apostles and the early Christians were of one mind, one heart, one faith, one baptism (cf. Acts 2:42-47; Eph 4:5). They listened to God’s word together, they broke bread together, they served the poor together, and they worshiped and prayed together. As a community of the Body of Christ, this is how they witnessed to the world.
In the same way, our strength will always be found in Christ and His Body the Church, as we are called to be a Church of communion. We are a people of communion because we reflect the very life of God in the Holy Trinity who is an eternal communion of love that is shared with us. In fact, this is what our Lord explicitly prayed for on the night before His death—“that they may all be one even as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me (Jn 17:21).”
At the beginning of the New Millennium, St. John Paul II called for a “spirituality of communion” of the whole Church saying that when we are formed, whether as priests or laity, in parishes and dioceses, and especially in families, we are to be formed not in a worldly spirit of individualism but in a spirit of communion with each other and with God. We are called not to be the rough and tough spiritual individualist that try to evangelize ourselves or the world by ourselves. We are called to be the Body of Christ to the world, not a spiritual “Lone Ranger” to the world. Our strength has always been and will always be Jesus Christ and our unity with him and thus with each other.
Ironically, in chasing after all the latest technological developments of our age, which should present unprecedented opportunities to build and strengthen communication and communion with each other, these very same things further divide and alienate us from each other. We have the power to communicate instantly with friends and acquaintances halfway around the world yet we become isolated from the person sitting next to us. We are able to carry on multiple electronic conversations yet ignore the persons we are with, perhaps even at the same dinner table.
How then do we recover a true communion with God and with each other? The same theologian mentioned above observed that in the post-Christian, post-modern world of today, the Christian of the future must be a mystic or he or she will not exist all. In other words, to be truly a Christian in today’s secular world, we must be the ones who bring the divine into the secular culture and bring the secular culture to the divine. To be a “mystic” is to be so in communion with God—and thus with each other in the Body of Christ—that we are able to open up the graces and treasures of the love of God to others who do not know him and to help usher others into this same love in a compelling, compassionate way. Receiving, meditating on, and living the Word of God, praising God in, with, and as the Body of Christ in the world—this is how the Catholic Christian of today and tomorrow will be a “mystic” for the world, or we will be not at all and will soon be indistinguishable from the rest of society.
And so we must examine ourselves and ask ourselves whether we, our families, our parishes, our diocese and our lives as the Church are in line with this. Do we champion different ideologies in the Church or are we of one mind, one heart, one baptism in Christ and the teachings of the Church? Can we say good-bye (and good riddance!) to narcissism and individualism? Can we commit ourselves to the care of others before our own selfishness? Can we humble ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus Christ in union with one another?
That is the Catholicism that we see in the early Church. That is the Catholicism that Christ and the Apostles taught and died for. That is the Catholicism that is present at the best moments of our history. May we be united in the mind and heart of Christ so much that our communion through him with the Trinity and with each other can shine so brightly that the world cannot help but notice and give glory to God.
Sententia in Christo vobis!