Throughout the years that I’ve been writing, I have sometimes been asked “Why do you write the way you do, invariably with some kind of secular bent? Why don’t you focus more on catechesis, teaching church doctrine, explaining the creeds, defending the church’s position on moral issues, and doing apologetics for the church?”
Reflections by Ron Rolheiser, OMI
THE NINETY-NINE AND THE ONE
Fair enough. The Christian community needs these things, particularly today when many Christians, including regular churchgoers, lack clarity about what they are supposed to believe and lack the tools they need to explain and defend their beliefs in the face of an ever-growing number of critics.
So why do I write the way I do, with an “the invariable bent toward the secular”?
My answer: Because I am trying to be a missionary and missionaries have been asked, by Jesus himself, to leave the ninety-nine and go after the one.
The majority of Christians today, at least inside of our highly secularized culture are the “strays” that Jesus told us to search for lovingly in the desert, even if it means not being able to focus as much as we’d like on the ninety-nine who are being faithful.
Jesus’ mandate is still there: Leave the ninety-nine who haven’t strayed and go after the one who has strayed. This requires that our teaching and preaching, and our reaching out to the world in general, must contain more than only catechesis, explanations of our creeds, clarity around dogma and morals, and even the repetition (however valid, needed, and timeless) of the language of Scripture and the creeds.
Those things need to be done, but that is only part of the task. The other part, equally needed and perhaps more difficult, is the task of relating these things (Scripture, the creeds, our dogmas, our moral teaching) to the energy, the color, the endeavours, the longings, the health, the sickness, the virtues, the sin, the beauty, and the pathos of our world.
More and more people feel themselves thoroughly disconnected from our church circles and our church language, and the fault isn’t all on their side. We need missionaries to the world, who can stand solidly within the church and invite the world, with all its desires and grandiosity, to join us, not as adversary but as family.
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