The Bad News

I wonder if you’ve ever heard the following or similar statements made about the Church from representatives of the media, wider culture, or even from friends and family?:

  • The Church no longer has a relevant contribution to make to our modern society, and She is unable to offer useful answers to the problems of our world.
  • She is also a diminishing presence in every area of modern life – Her voice does not count and so can be disregarded.
  • The Catholic faith is divisive, especially in education. It is also unscientific.
  • The Church is undemocratic and should have no voice in politics.
  • The Church has backward ethical and moral values which constitute a hateful and bigoted system designed to constrain people’s freedoms and exert institutional power.
  • The sins of the Church at both individual and institutional levels prove not just a false compassion and love, but a contempt for the most vulnerable people in our society.
  • Christian culture is out of step with the lives of modern Britons, so why would anyone be attracted to something so dull and uninspiring?
  • There will no longer be a Church in the future because of collapsing mass attendance, falling vocations, Christian persecution, an exodus of the young, a crisis in catechesis and closing parish churches.

I’m sure you could add to these points many of your own, and embellish them with harsher criticisms than I have done!

I’ve certainly read and heard comments like this and it can naturally make one feel disturbed or concerned about the future of the Church. What also makes them hard-hitting is that some contain kernels of truth, or facts that we’d rather not contemplate. So runs the bad news!

While it is tempting to fight fire with fire or respond to every example we find of misunderstanding or attack, God’s answer to this bad news is simply The Good News. Amazingly, He has entrusted the mission of sharing it to each one of us, without exception.

This Good News is addressed first to individuals. Christ commands, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations‘. (Matt 28:19) Disciples are those who have met and responded to the Good News of God’s love in Jesus Christ, have allowed His saving power to meet them in their sinfulness, have accepted God’s mercy and who follow Him wherever He goes. ‘Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but an encounter with an event, a person‘. (Pope Benedict XVI)

Christian disciples are also people who acknowledge that they do not possess the power in themselves to change others or the world into what they might like it to be. Rather, evangelisation is about trust and faithfulness to God’s commands. An Anglican Bishop wrote: ‘the awakening of faith in an individual is not something that can be engineered by human endeavour or persuasion. All our programmes, techniques and strategies are nothing without the gentle action of the Holy Spirit.’ This is the only power that can change our world, and it does so from the inside out.

So whenever you feel tempted to despair or feel impotent against a world which turns away from God, pray that as you have received the Good News, you will also be able to offer it in love to those who have as yet received only the bad news. Then, the world might start to look like a very different place.

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2 thoughts on “The Bad News

  1. I am writing on Easter Monday, a beautiful time to meditate on the Good News.

    Those statements Paul which you list under the heading of “Bad News” sound a familiar theme. It is true enough that not all news is bad news, and as Christians we have a duty to ensure the Good News, offered with love, receives its proper share of airtime too. But for me, the problem is not just what the bad news says, no matter how grievous and terrible and yes, true as well, it may be. The issue is the attitude of the people who hear it.

    Jesus explained this with his parable of the sower (Matthew chapter 13). He was by the side of the sea, teaching in a boat, and great crowds came to him from all over to hear the Good News. The parable began, a sower went out to sow. As he was going along, humming merrily, some seeds fell on the path, some on the rocky ground, some among the thorns and some in the good soil. The sower did not see what happened to the seeds. He did not see the birds following behind him, gobbling up the seeds on the path as he went. He did not wait for the heat of the day when the sun came up and scorched the seeds on rocky ground. He did not stop to pull up the thorns or see whether they would outcompete his puny seedlings. He trusted in God, and the seed which landed in good soil grew and yielded a rich harvest.

    The seeds had three types of bad news. They might be eaten by the birds, dried up by the sun, or choked by the thorns. But the bad news was outperformed by the good news, the seed which fell in good soil and produced its grain.

    When his disciples asked Jesus about the meaning of this parable, strangely enough he started quoting the prophet Isaiah.

    “You shall indeed hear, but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.”

    He was talking about the people who did not understand his parable, but to his disciples, he said, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.” The point I think he was making is not only that many prophets and wise people did not understand his parables, but also that they could not understand it, because their hearts were closed. Such is the sorry state of many people living in the world today, who suffer tribulation or persecution and lose faith, are weighed down by the cares of the world or the delight of riches, or who come under the spell of the evil one. Their bad news has devoured them, and so they are unable to receive the word of the living and true God into their hearts.

    The solution? For those of us who are planted in the good soil and believe, praise the Lord, the answer is the Good News. Christ our Lord is Risen, Alleluia! But for those who do not understand, who cannot understand, the Good News will not take away their bad news. What they need is Christ the Good Shepherd, who searches and seeks out for the stray, bandages the wounded, and carries the lost one home. The way to counter bad news in the world is to follow in the footsteps of Christ, to show his face of mercy and compassion, to help others struggling with their own crosses, and to combat hatred with love.

    May Mary, Help of Christians, be our companion on the way.

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    • Thank you David, Christ is risen indeed!

      I appreciate your replies very much. They emphasize the Christ who will go to far greater lengths (than our desires or energies enable us to) in seeking out and saving those who are in all manner of difficulty and confusion. I must trust Him even more! Jesus mercy, Mary help.

      In Christ, Paul.

      Like

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