Catholic Atheists?

The Holy Father recently gave a homily stating that if we are deaf and don’t listen to the word of God and put them into practice, we could become Catholic atheists. The consequence of which is blasphemy – when we don’t consider the sacred realities and the sacred things as such but desacralize them to the point of committing a sacrilege. Those who are not familiar with the things of the sacred are very much prone to this – even altar boys and men of the altar are no exempt from this.

If we want to diagnose the process, I believe it is due to extreme secularism which infiltrates the very sanctuary of the church and its convents. But more over, it could start from the pretense that the world is evil and we don’t have nothing to do with it. There is deviated dichotomy of perception between the sacred and the profane, the secular and the sacred. 

 We need to review our catechism that God created the world and saw it as “good”, and therefore it is not completely evil. In fact God acts through what could be considered profane and secular. Who could ever imagine that a God who became man, would be born in a manger, poor and dirty? Unbecoming of a God? Who would ever think that Jesus would initiate a dialogue with a Samaritan woman considered to be enemies of the Jews and unsacred? Who would even think that He would dine with the sinners and tax collectors? Jesus inserted himself in their world which the religious men and women at that time considered profane, dirty, outcasts, sinners: the lepers, the tax collectors, etc.   

St. John XXIII advised the Catholics to listen to the signs of the times since God works in history and we have to discover the signs of the divine in these events, not to be blinded by them and fail to see God’s presence, even in the most negative realities. Did not Jesus on the cross assumed all darkness, all sin, all negative things unto himself on the cross? He even felt realistically as a man, as if neglected by God, when He cried out “My God, Why have you forsaken me?” Yet, in doing so, he assumed everything evil into Himself even the effects of sin without being a sinner himself and then he died in order to be risen on the third day.

When Pope Francis told us to go to the peripheries of existence, precisely, he invites us to leave our “sacred” space in order to be in the profane world and see the God who is hiding in these pains and suffering in whatever face He appears. We have to listen to the signs of the times and look for the the Face of Christ suffering in our people. It is here that we could encounter Him even outside the sacred space of the sacraments or convents.  

God created the world as good! When one fails to see this, one may not see the sacred or the divine in the world. This could easily lead to the loss of the sense of the sacred even in front of sacred signs. This is of course coming from the loss of the sense of God which leads to the loss of the sense of the divine which, as the Pope said, could lead easily to blasphemy. What is more serious however, is that: the loss of the sense of God and the sacred leads to the loss of the sense of sin.

On the other hand, ministers who could fail to listen to the signs of the times or go out to existential peripheries could easily be attracted to hide in their own comfort zones, the most common of which is readily available to them: the sacraments! In order to shield from the so called “infectious and evil” secular world, ministers tend to hide themselves in a sacramental lifestyle only performing liturgical pageantries, as if the church’s evangelizing mission is only limited within these walls of the ministerial fortress of the sacraments. It is there where ministers feel safe from seeming vicious attacks of the devil existing in the world, believing erroneously that this is more than enough to evangelize without engaging in a respectful dialogue with the world and cultures.

We are all invited then to listen to the word of God and put them into practice, even outside the peripheries of the sacramental loci of the parish, which is beginning to loose its meaning – as evidenced by the dwindling of church attendances. It is not a coincidence that the Church in the Philippines this year, invites all of us to live well our lives in the parish as a communion of communities which starts and continues to be nourished by the – Word of God put into practice – in order to avoid being called Catholic atheists! Let us encourage each other then to live God’s word concretely in our lives and contribute in bridging the ever widening gap between the sacred and the profane through enlightened dialogue   By living God’s word, we begin to transform what is profane in the world – towards the divine and the sacred – in order to make this valley of tears into a piece of that heavenly garden.