Saturday, August 17, 2019

Leaving The Community of Faith

Here in Korea as in much of the West we are seeing a drop in religious practice. At the same time news and statistics come to us in rapid order showing that society is having a nervous breakdown. Nine out of ten young people in England have no purpose in life. The number of suicides is increasing and the number of mental problems is seen everywhere. The availability of information is part of the reason but not the only reason.

 In a bulletin for priests, a retired pastor laments the change in Korean Catholic life where only about 18 out of a hundred parishioners are practicing. These numbers will not be improving soon. What has happened? Society has changed and so has the Church. The same problems facing society are facing the Church.

 He mentions in the article, Paul who was a devout parish worker, had a good education and taught the catechumens who were preparing to enter the community. Many praised him for his devotion and efforts. He moved to a distant city with his family because of work. Months later, his friend heard that he discontinued going to church. There seemed to be no special reason. He was teaching those who were interested in coming into the church; lived an exemplary life and yet... Many people were surprised to hear he was no longer practicing.

 Not uncommon is to see this happen within a community. If you marry, move, or make major changes in life, the faith life often breaks down. Many are the reasons for leaving this life of faith but something was missing. From the outside, he was living a life of faith, but the roots did not go deep.

Faith begins by hearing and becomes strong through experiences in life. Listening to the Gospel important as it is, can not take the place of experience and living what is believed.

For example, Kim was introduced to someone by a friend. They never met but he heard a lot of good things about him. One day they met. They talked and watched a movie together and deepened their friendship. What he heard about him only in words lacked intimacy. After meeting, talking, and doing something together, a friendship developed they wanted to meet again. Introduced with words and with the head, the experience of the person brought a change.

In the age of science where everything needs testing and causes revealed, faith becomes more difficult. The world of faith is rarely revealed in this way. It's not scientific and objective truth of ‘3 + 3 = 6’. With objective truth, we have no freedom to accept and believe. The truth of faith is not objective in this sense, but subjective. Many miracle stories are hard to accept scientifically. Some people can accept it, and others can't. We are free to accept subjective truth or not. When two people see the same thing, one can be changed and to another it means nothing. Accepting the truth of faith requires not only the disposition but an openness to allow it to work and change us.

“I have met people who are poor and unlearned, and faith gives them hope and strength while the wealthy and educated have only the externals of faith." (Tolstoy)

“Everyone who hears and practices these words of mine will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock” (Matthew 7: 21,24).

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