Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Blow Away the Cobwebs

A questionnaire was sent to 626 college professors to choose a motto for the year 2013, and the motto chosen was 除舊布新"Blow Away the Cobwebs." Do away with the old and extend the new would be another and more literal translation of the 4 Chinese characters that were chosen. Our columnist in the Catholic Times uses these words as a meditation on the new year.

The wise of the past, according to the columnist, were not interested in getting rid of all that is old, nor did they believe that the new is always good. Wisdom tells us to keep the good of the old and to block the evil practices of the new. This is what it means to blow away the cobwebs.

To rid ourselves of abuses and unhelpful old ways is one means to be renewed. In our present society we talk a lot about renewal, says our writer, but he feels that this talk has little to do with interior change, but is an easy way of escaping our present crises.

The columnist recently interviewed the president of the Bishops Conference and was impressed by his comments on this crisis: "There are many who are talking about the crisis in the Church. We see many who separate life from  faith. Can we describe this as a pattern of secularization and relativism?  Our faith life is not being changed by a desire for renewal and a change of heart. We have a desire, a prerequisite for renewal, to believe and to confess Jesus, but many do not know him. There is a strong desire to know him. Many Christians know what we are to believe with their heads, the way to receive grace as something of habit, and the commandments seem to mean little.  The commandments should be embodied in us, but  we remember only the words. They have not become part of us but separated from life."

If we believe that faith is one thing and life another, this is not a sign of a Christian. Renewal means to become what we are. Faith is to make what we believe a part of our daily life. We are not to think that our parish can be used by us like a lifeboat, a Noah's ark; we need to be continually renewed. The first step is to see ourselves as sinners. We have to set aside our own opinions; expedients only weaken our ability to face the challenges. 

We often act like the squirrel on a treadmill, going around and around, making little progress. This is not what our faith life should be. We should make the crisis of faith into a challenge, an opening to a new way of living our religious lives.