This news report on CNS is heartening; I'm guessing it is reporting on what the good Father said earlier this month [full text]. Fr. DiNoia hits the nail right on the head. I'm glad that a highly-placed churchman is promoting this, not that I've seen the SCDF watering anything down, but for so many parish priests who seem reluctant to proclaim our faith in all its glory--the stuff that feels good as well as the stuff that is more difficult for us to absorb in our current cultural milieu.
I came into the Church via the Episcopalian path, where the Anglican communion has made every accommodation to our popular Western culture. In so doing, it has become more of a social club than a faith, and it seems that popular American Catholicism has to some extent fallen into the same trap. For many, it has become more of a social, familial, and cultural association than a sacred deposit of divinely-revealed truth that leads us on our way to perfection.
A friend of mine I knew at Oral Roberts University recently moved to Princeton as a student at their seminary. He's an awesome guy, and I'm glad he's here. He blogged not long ago about what he called Joe the Messiah. As I commented on it recently, I was puzzled at the desire to emphasize the humanity of Christ, i.e., to draw him down to us and thus in a way make him more like us, which seems to be at the heart of this socio-cultural approach to religion.
It seems we don't want a faith that demands things of us. We don't want a Lord, a King--we want to democratize and socialize and domesticate God. It is the ancient approach to the divine--form the gods in your own image, make them like you and thereby tame them. Only seek them when you are afraid and threatened or celebrating special occasions, but keep them out of the way otherwise.
But the Good News--the Gospel--is not about us making God in our image. It's not about making friends and being sociable. The Good News is that God has reached down to us from his throne upon the cherubim, to lift us up and to make us more like him. That is the joy at the heart of the Incarnation--that through the Divine becoming one of us we, too, can become divine.
Making the Good News real in us means that Jesus must be our Lord, our King, our Savior first, before he can be our friend and brother. He came as the Light of the world, to lead us into Light. There is implicit challenge there, implicit difficulty because on our own we're wallowing in a morass of darkness and despair and unhappily but inevitably inclined to remain there.
Our Lord makes demands of us; real lords do that. Sometimes the demands are hard, sometimes they don't jive with our culture or what feels good to our human nature, but behind both the easy and the not-so-easy demands is that beacon of Light and Love that leads us towards perfection, towards our salvation and sanctification, and towards our own and others' ultimate Good, even when we don't necessarily see or understand the reasons for them as we peer through the glass darkly.
Having faith implies obedience even when we don't like or understand the demands of our faith at times; indeed, it is that same faith that enables us to trust that the Light is there when we don't see it. In those times, it is our part to cry out in ineffable joy to our Lord along with that despairing father, "I do believe; help my unbelief!", even as we strive to understand.
Obedience in faith is not blind or irrational; it follows naturally when the fabric of your being is woven from a love of God and neighbor that is in turn a natural response to God's love. If you do believe that God is perfectly good and loving, it is no leap to believe that he loves us and wants only our good. Therefore, you can wrap your doubts on this or that particular difficult doctrine in this broader faith, allowing the Spiritual fruits of patience, humility, and faithfulness to be made real in you. Such obedience is not drudgery or unreasonably burdensome but is rather a joy, a truly light and easy yoke indeed!
So we mustn't water down the Faith or hide the hard bits under the rug to make it more palatable or when we just don't get it; we mustn't lose our saltiness. We have to avoid the urge to make God more like us and instead embrace his offer to make us more like him. This means embracing and proclaiming both the popular stuff and the unpopular stuff--whatever our Lord calls us to.
Encourage your pastors to proclaim the Faith unabashedly; thank them when they do. No, really; take the time to write them. Too often they only hear the criticisms and grumblings of those who want to stop their ears and remain in the muck. Our pastors need to hear that you want the Truth, straight up. And we, also, need to share the Truth unabashedly in the company of our friends and family and in the public square. Who knows, maybe if we do this, our culture will come to better reflect our faith.
May the Lord grant us all the grace and courage to be the true light of the world with wisdom and charity!