Tonight I saw a comment (social media provides me with a lot of food for thought) that implied the issues of the West, transgenderism, homosexuality, divorce, adultery, etc. are not the same as the murder, rape, persecution, and poverty overseas or in Third World countries. This was, of course, in response to the Bruce Jenner situation. I do not wish to write on that topic because there are people who would do a much better job on it than me. I pray for him and discuss it with people who bring it up to me, but I do not feel called to that discussion. This comment got me thinking. Have we forgotten about the unique dignity of every single human being? Have we forgotten that Jesus loves every single person? Yes, there are great horrors going on, but many of those are on our own street behind closed doors. The penalty for sin is death and destruction, so how can we think that our culture is somehow better off? How can we think that we don’t need to be concerned about the one lost soul we meet? What does Scripture say?
The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them he addressed this parable. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. Luke 15:1-7
We can easily fall into the mentality of the Pharisees. I know I do it at times. We can decide that certain evils are greater because we have a visceral reaction to them. Who among us is not appalled by the rape and murder of children overseas? Those are great evils to be sure, but they are not the only evils impacting souls. When Blessed Teresa of Calcutta would come to the U.S., she would observe a great poverty in our country and in the rest of the West. It was a poverty of loneliness, the feeling of being unloved.
The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Our country is being torn apart by broken homes, hedonism, materialism, and relativism. The by-products of these philosophies are everywhere. People are screaming out to be loved, but they don’t know where to go. They don’t know the answer. They have never been shown. Instead they have lived lives of abandonment, pain, anger, confusion, and frustration. This is exacerbated and deepened in a culture that lies to them. A culture that tells them that if they only do whatever they want, they will feel better. But, no. This is a quick fix and it leads ever deeper into the pit of destruction and despair. How many women are crying alone in their apartments tonight because they believed the lie that promiscuity would bring them love and acceptance? How many men are drowning out their desire for a deep and lasting love through sexual conquests only to return to their lonely lives afterwards? How many teenagers and adults are struggling with same sex attraction and hating themselves? How many of those live with that deep hate, not because people like me tell them that homosexual sex is a sin, but rather because they know that that sex has not filled the ache they feel within themselves? Homosexual or heterosexual, filling the void through sex doesn’t stop the deep hunger for Love. How many children sit home alone and never see their parents because they are working too many hours? How many parents are trying to buy their child’s affection to make up for their absence? How many children are crying tonight because they were told divorce was coming for their parents? How many inner city kids are craving the attention of a father they have never met or a mother they seldom get to see? How many husbands and wives are living with the pain of adultery? How many people are drowning out their sorrow in drugs and alcohol at this very minute? How many of us (me) use social media to dull the isolation they feel? THIS! This is the poverty of our country.
We tell ourselves that this poverty, pain, and immorality is nothing compared to ISIS, Boko Haram, China, or any country living in barbarism. We don’t equate the two because we don’t want to have to look in the mirror. We don’t want to have to examine our own sins. The sins of others are greater than our own. We don’t want to look at how we are preventing Christ from reaching the people near us. The shouting and yelling at others about their sins does nothing, but make people dig in their heals. Meanwhile, Christ is looking for every single lost sheep. He will leave the 99. He will leave the 6 billion for the one. Have we Christians forgotten that truth? A truth that is so profound, so big, so unbelievable, but somehow we have forgotten to share it with others? We are not Christ, so our yelling at others will accomplish nothing. Instead, we must offer an invitation in charity and truth.
No we cannot confirm people in their sins. We cannot lie to them in order to make them feel better about their choices. But we will never bring people to the pews if all they see is us screaming about their sins. Isn’t this the point Pope Francis is making? He’s not changing Church teaching. He’s pointing out that hurt, wounded, aching, unloved people, need to have a real encounter with the Risen Lord. We need to share our joy and not only reserve it for the people who we decide are worthy because it is quite clear that Christ is interested in each and every single person. We need to show them how Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church is the answer to the longing of their heart. That Christ is the answer to their loneliness, brokenness, and wounds. That the Holy Eucharist is the answer to the meaning of life. To be a saint is to be fully alive. WE need to be willing to enter into their brokenness and pain. We need to be willing to hurt with them because that is what the Mystical Body does. Can you imagine what it is like to have never known love? To only know how to use hedonism to fill up that deep void? They must ask themselves in confusion: Who is This? Love me?! It has to be blinding like it was for St. Paul. It has to be difficult to accept and completely foreign. These are the people we are called to reach out to, but we cannot do it on our own terms. I mean our own individual terms. We must use the greatness of Catholicism, but allow people to find their footing. We need to walk the journey with them in charity and truth. I have known these very people throughout my lifetime and I have failed them. I have failed them.
There are unspeakable horrors around the world. I sit back and watch the news in pain for people most days, but I have no control over what happens in Nigeria or the Middle East. I do weep with them. I do have control over my family, friends, community, parish, and social media interactions. All I can do is fast and pray for those parts of the world I cannot impact, but I do have the ability to share my faith with people who do not understand it at all. To patiently bear their burdens, questions, confusion, flight, and struggle. It is not easy to be converted. It is not easy to agree to conform one’s life to the Most Holy Trinity through Baptism. It is not easy to die to self. It is not easy to let go of greed, lust, envy, gluttony, pride, anger, avarice, and sloth. It’s a life long spiritual battle, but one that we engage in with Christ by our side. It is easier when we fall in love with Christ. Things that seemed impossible slowly get easier. We need to show people how to fall in love with Jesus Christ in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit by our own example. Christ leads us to the abandonment of sin. That is the only way they will abandon sin and begin the life long battle. They will want to die to self because they love God. Do we? Do we want to die to self because of our love of God? We have to ask ourselves that every single day too because we fall and sin and must return to Him in our weakness.
Let us remember in our daily dealings there are a lot of hurting people who need Christ. There is a lot of evil in our own neighborhoods that needs redemption. There is not a single soul who Christ does not desire. A lost soul is a horrific thing. The people in our country who are trapped in the lies of hedonism, materialism, and relativism are prisoners of the Evil One. They too need the Paschal Mystery to break loose their chains. Think about that the next time you call someone a “freak” or other ad hominem. These people are lost and we know the Way. Are we showing people the Way?
As I write this post, tears well up in my eyes for all of the times I have failed in this exact same call. In all of the ways that I fail to show love to the people around me and even the people I encounter on social media. I have a daughter who needs my complete and total love, but I get lost in selfishness some days and fail her. I do the same thing to my husband. These are the people Christ entrusted to me. How many other people have I encountered in my life and failed? Jesus wanted every single one of those people for His own and I failed to serve Him. All power rests in Him, but He uses each one of us to further the mission of bringing the world to Him. Let’s stop being afraid. Let’s stop ignoring His call. We need to trust in Him. He can bring about the conversion in even the most hardened of hearts and he can heal the sins of our age. . We have to be willing lives of courageous virtue and holiness. We cannot just use words to draw people in, our joy and way of life should point to Christ. We have to be willing to love as He loves and search for the one soul he puts in our tracks each day.