March 27, 2012

A Heart on Fire - What America Needs

America needs hearts on fire with the Gospel of Christ-- and not just America, but the whole world.   Our faith is not merely about a moral ideal or the mastery of a body of information.   It is about a relationship with the Risen Lord and out of that relationship, a transformed way of life.  Christ dwelling in us by faith gives us victory over evil in our lives.  Freed from self-indugelnce and anxiety, Christ offers the possiblity of conforming ourselves to his perfect love.  But we must believe -- really believe.  There is a steep cost in true discipleship -- and God is never outdone by our generosity. Here Christian piety does not operate on the level of a nice feeling or a pleasant thought.  The very substance of our hope requires that we make room for Christ Crucified in our hearts.  Such living faith requires real repentance, ongoing conversion, renunciation, sacrifice, constant vigilance, endurance of all kinds of trials, and continual effort to patiently bear with one another - or else we have robbed our faith of the power of the Cross.  Archbishop Charles, in his just released ebook, diagnoses this great spiritual problem which has dampened the flame meant to ignite the world:

"The 'next america' we now see emerging--an America ignorant of or cynical toward religion in general and Christianity in particular--shouldn't really surprise anyone.  Its a new America, but its made in America.  We can blame the mass media, or the academy, or science, or special interest groups for creating the environment we now face.  But we Christians--including we Catholics--helped shape it with our eagerness to fit in, our distractions and overconfidence, and our own lukewarm faith. 

"Too many people who claim to be Christian simply don't know Jesus Christ.  They don't really believe in the Gospel.  They feel embarrassed by their religion and vaguely out of step with the times.  They may keep their religion for comfort value.  Or they may adjust it to fit their doubts.  But it doesn't reshape their lives because it isn't real.  And because it isn't real, it has no transforming effect on their personal behavior, no social force, and few public consequences...Whatever it once was, now it's dead."

A Heart on Fire: Catholic Witness in a New America is a easy read -- but tough medicine good to pray over in these final days of Lent.