Tuesday, July 21, 2015

If Your Religion Hasn't Changed You...

I saw a “meme” on Face Book the other day…it said, “If your religion hasn’t changed your life, you had better change your religion.” It’s a protestant thing; it came from a “ministry” that features a person named Adrian Rodgers. And really, if you think about it, that is a very protestant reaction: we used to call it church-hopping when I was running in those circles.

The source and summit of our life.
The source of "change"!
There are some very obvious problems with that little “adrianism” (as the site calls it), especially for a Catholic. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Catholics who try to do just that: they say they don’t get anything out of Mass, and that they don’t believe what the Church teaches on certain things, and then they go off and start attending some feel-good Protestant service that advertises contemporary Christian music, and/or hand-waving, and/or being “slain in the spirit”. (They can get this at a “charismatic” Catholic service, too, of course.)

They mistake all the emotional hype for “change”. They think they are changed by the emotions, and they fail to look way down deep within themselves for the change. They mistake the music and the preaching and the concomitant emotions as the source of their “change”. It makes them feel good, and gets them excited, at least for a while. But at the end of the day, when the emotion fades, so does the “change”. You’re back where you started, waiting for the next Sunday, or maybe a Wednesday night, when you can get recharged by singing and dancing and waving your hands in the air, and, if you’re really “blessed”, to fall down on the floor (aided by the watchful ushers) in some sort of religious ecstasy.

Been there, done that.

And then there are the Catholics who think their religion isn’t changing them, so they seek to change Catholicism to suit themselves. The Jesuits (in general) come to mind…

Of course, the truth is, we may be changed by our Catholic faith and not perceive the change as a giant turn-around. That slow, gradual change is more profound and more lasting than any pseudo-epiphany. (Of course, there are times when an individual might have a real epiphany that does result in a huge change in their very being; but that’s another story. St. Paul comes to mind.)

My point is, though, that we don’t always recognize the changes that take place within us – or even the superficial changes. For instance, sometimes I see photos of myself and wonder where all that gray hair came from all of a sudden. Well, it didn’t really happen overnight; I just didn’t notice it, since it was a gradual change. (Still, when I look in the mirror, all I see is that I am developing blonde highlights. Strange…)

I have been pursuing spiritual development for years. Have I seen any change? Often, I think not. I used to whine to my spiritual director about it. “I’m exactly the same as when I started! I’m stuck! I haven’t changed a bit!” And he would say, “We’ll be the judge of that.” (He often resorts to that royal “we” in such circumstances.) Sometimes others see the change you don’t. And sometimes, only God knows what changes He has wrought in your soul…but we will all know about our changes when we come face-to-face with Him.

It is definitely a protestant mindset that urges people to “change their religion.” It reflects the underlying sentiment – one that is not even recognized by most protestants! – that the individual is the supreme arbiter of faith. Each person is his own authority when it comes to “religion”.

But if there’s no true authority, then there’s no true faith, is there?

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

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