Time to get serious! Long have you heard me say that Labor Day is a spiritual milestone without being an actual Holy Day. It marks the end of summer, the return to business, to school, to traffic, and to all those things that mark the seriousness of our endeavors, whether we be of age six or fifty-six.
My first recommendation stays the same: Go to confession this week. Seek God’s forgiveness for all your summer sins, whether they be sins of indolence or self-indulgence, both very summer sorts of sin. You cannot think that in Advent you will remember your summertime sins. Get the grace God wants you to have now, by identifying them, speaking of them while you remember their context, and resolutely turning away from them. Like a good haircut, or waxing your car, it will reduce drag and increase both efficiency and speed.
It is time to get serious. You can see it in the faces of the littlest ones who have come back to school. Not the middle-schoolers, no, no; they are too cool to give any indication of being serious about anything. But the little kids seriously set about their studies, and it is a sense of purpose as much as the weight of their backpacks that makes them lean forward when they walk, as if into a headwind.
It is time to get serious about the things that may have slipped down the priority list, or gone undone. I have mine, and I am sure you have yours. We hope no one noticed because they were too distracted by their own summer goofing off!
While we were diverted, things have been getting pretty serious around the world. The Middle East, Ukraine, and Liberia have all lit up our screens with an intensity it seems inadvisable to ignore. I found a note from Bishop Knestout when I returned from my end-of-summer trip that said the Archdiocese is encouraging parishes to take up special collections for aid to persecuted Christians in the Middle East. There wasn’t enough warning to do it this weekend, and we already have second collections the next two weekends, so that means we will have it the last weekend in September.
But tell me honestly, is that anywhere near the response these situations call for? Are we helpless spectators who can only write checks to assuage our feelings of guilt at having had a delightful summer while so many people are fleeing for their very lives? Let’s get serious here. What else can we do? What else must we do?
Is there anything our religion can do in the face of evil, in response to suffering, or to alleviate our helplessness? Or does it require that we all just cross ourselves and say that everything that happens must be “God’s will?” What does our religion offer you now, besides a return to the routine? How do you respond to the much-advocated position that “religion” is a major cause of human division, strife, and suffering? Is “religion” all one phenomenon with multiple iterations, or is there something about one religion, any religion – OUR religion – that resists such dismissal, even condemnation?
We are Catholics. We are the Body of Christ upon earth. Christ transforms suffering into new and everlasting life – does that sound like something that the world could use right now? Plunge into our faith, my beloved friends; seek, study, and find what makes it different. These problems are not going to go away, and no one is going to fix them for us. What defense do you have against evil? What has God given you in this Church? Spend the time to find out – it is only going to become more clear that the Body of Christ is the only truly different reality in the world. That can cost you, as well as help you. It is time to get serious about being a Catholic.