Pure or Poor?

Why do we go to church? What are we looking for? What is it we want from our religious practice? What good is spirituality? These sorts of questions were prompted by a headline that grabbed my attention. Essentially, the article [Link] frames the question whether the church is meant for the “poor” or for the “pure”?

At 48, Las Cruces, NM Bishop Oscar Cantú is the second youngest bishop in the country. He is the son of Mexican immigrants. He is a clear sign of hope as well as an indication of where the church in the US is headed.  This bishop gives me hope — not because he is young, not because he is focused on those securely ensconced within his churches, but because he has laser-beam focus on who the church is for!

In response to self-appointed watchdog groups that claim it causes “scandal” for the church to have any association with organizations that are not in total agreement with Catholic moral teaching on every issue, Cantú worries about who is being left behind.

“The Incarnation is messy,” Cantú reminds us. “There was nothing clean about that stable in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. Sometimes we sterilize the stable, and we lose the mystery of the Incarnation. We can’t be afraid to get our hands dirty. … What about the scandal of not caring for the poor?” he asked. “This is the silent scandal.”

For Cantú, the church already has a clear road map for responding to urgent needs in a messy world. “When we read the Gospel, Jesus goes out to those on the margins.” We can never let “a fear of being contaminated” to allow us to be complacent or distract us from our call now to be Christ’s real presence in our day.

Instead of giving-up desserts or alcohol, in place of resolving to attend daily Mass or a commitment to an exercise routine; what if more of us declared a fast from secure isolation, abstained from passive indifference, gave up a piety of individualism?

What if more of us resolved to spend an hour a week in community service with those who really are “on the edge” in place of going to Mass?

What if we gave heightened attention to the Stations of the Cross being played out in our communities rather than expecting to find them in our sanitized churches at noon on Fridays?

Rather than spending an hour in Eucharistic Adoration, what if we actually were to become the “Real Presence” with someone whose body is broken or who knows what it is to shed blood?

Why do we go to church? What are we looking for? What is it we want from our religious practice? What good is spirituality? Do I go to church to become “pure” or am I sent forth from church to engage with any who are “poor”?

Lent is our invitation to renewal, to return, to finally “turn around,” to be raised from all that is death-dealing in our lives. I am in desperate need of all that Lent has to offer! Even more, our poor broken world is in desperate need for all of us who claim church membership to have a profoundly grace-filled Lent.

One thought on “Pure or Poor?

  1. Richard — I so seldom have time for much online reading but clicked on this because it’s been some time since I’ve read your always thoughtful and thought-provoking (!) blog. This entry was so interesting (I followed and read your link as well). I feel very hopeful for this Pope and now for this amazing bishop in Texas–my kind of guy!! With these kinds of leaders, many good things can happen in the name of religion. Now if the Pope could just make it possible for women to become priests, I would consider converting! 😉

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