I met an old friend of mine after a long time. He was a staunch Catholic once but he had the left the Catholic Church for some reason a few years ago. Subsequently he joined a number of churches of other Christian denominations, actively participating in every church he joined. Today he has left all of them and remains what he calls “a true Christian outside the church”. By that he means he follows Christ’s teachings as taught and lived by Jesus himself.
According to my friend the people inside the church today are busy fighting among themselves for their own selfish reasons which leaves them little time to do what Jesus really commanded; unconditional service to fellow men. Even when they do some service it is with some ulterior motive of seeking popularity, power or monetary gains. Even the pastors seem to be no better as they do everything for money with little compassion and empathy for the people they are supposed to serve. They may be great preachers but poor doers of what they preach. From his experience he concludes that “The people outside the church are better humans than those inside who call themselves Christians, the followers of Christ”.
This is a very strange statement from a man who has been very actively involved in many churches but ironically it has some truth, not only in other churches but in our own Catholic Church as well. I realize a number those who have left the church seem to be happier doing God’s work outside on their own than when they were inside where there were many all out to stop them from doing so. Unfortunately the place where we are supposed to serve God has become a place for politicking where jealousy and revenge which have become the guiding rules, instead of forgiveness and repentance as what Christ wants. What has gone wrong with the church and the people in it?
We have many talented people in our midst but why are they reluctant to serve in the church ministries? Why are so many who were active before leaving the ministries and the church itself? Why is that only a tiny fraction of the members come to church despite making Sunday a day of obligation? What is being done to keep the people especially those with dissenting views within the flock? We conveniently ignore them by classifying them as ‘lapse Catholics’ and we have no time for them as we think they have none for us. Is that what Christ wants us to do? Jesus was very clear of what to do with such people in his parable of the prodigal son.
The church today has become an institutionalized organization with rules and regulations based on human experiences and expectations. In such an organization the rules are enforced by the priest and those close to him, the so-called inner circle. There is little or no room for dialogue and debate let alone dissent. The policy of “If you are not with me then you are against me” seems to be prevalent among our priests and their cohorts. Such an attitude makes it impossible for many talented, capable and highly qualified ordinary members of the congregation to be accepted as part of the team. If one is not accepted into the inner circle then it would be better for him to leave otherwise he has to face the wrath of the priest and his inner circle even if he does the right thing.
Today the church is more involved in rituals and mammoth prayers sessions to praise and worship God. We hope to get closer to Him by being preoccupied with such actions of worship without taking pains to understand the plight of our neighbor. We leave everything behind and rush to worship God hoping to get Him to listen to our prayers, which is most of the time for our own well being. Jesus clearly tells us what to do before we go to worship him, “If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering”.(Mathew5:23-24).
How many of us really follow him? Very often we know what God wants us to do but we take the easy way out to follow Him on our terms not His, as His ways go against the worldly desires that we all crave for in our lives.
This New Year let us resolve to put aside our differences with those we cannot get along and come together to build God’s Kingdom in our BEC, parish and community at large. Let us not involve in the petty squabbles in our parish but try to follow Christ the way He wants, if not in the Church then outside. It is better to be a good human outside the Church than being a bad Christian within. That is what I see in what Jesus preached and lived.