10 major faith and church struggles for our age as developed by OMI priest, Ron Rolheiser. As we begin 2023 it might be worth our while to ponder these points.
- A struggle with the atheism of our everyday consciousness in a world caught up with materialism. This is a very strong narcotic that places us at the center of our universe rather than God. So, how do we combat the atheism of our everyday consciousness? It requires us to be purposely mindful of all we have and not fall into the trap of seeing ourselves as the center of our universe.
- A struggle to live in torn, divided and highly polarized communities to become healers and peacemakers even though we are wounded ourselves. How do we become healers and peace makers when we too are wounded in a divided world? In the Prayer of St Francis he asks God to help him sow unity when there is division first by seeing the whole cloth of creation as one and envisioning us being part of the process where the torn edges are joined together by finding a common thread of hope to bind all.
- A struggle to live, love and forgive beyond the infectious ideologies we daily breathe. We need to be neither liberal nor conservative but rather a people of true compassion. Going beyond ideologies is a difficult challenge for they tend to define who we are. We find those of opposing positions as detrimental to a process of forgiveness. Yet we are asked to be compassionate, to walk a mile in the shoes of the other to begin to understand others and treat them as we wish to be treated.
- A struggle for a healthy sexuality that is both chaste and passionate. A healthy sexuality in a society that on one hand glorifies rampant sexuality or denigrate the sexuality of individuals through ostracism, mutilation and death demands we stand for justice. None are slaves to the sexual desires of others nor should they become victims of brutal misogyny.
- A struggle for interiority and prayer in a culture that promotes a virtual conspiracy against depth and serenity. We as a society have also become afraid of silence. We play music through buildings, headphones, telephones and computers to insulate ourselves from those around us and in doing so deafen ourselves to what God may be telling us. Begin today taking even five minutes to just sit in a quiet place and do nothing more than breathe and relax. It’s harder than you think for our first concern is controlling the time we spend, then concerning ourselves with what needs to be done after this time is finished thus creating a cacophony in our minds. If nothing else simply allow yourself to be bathed in the silence of the moment, to be bathed in the simple knowledge that you are loved just the way you are even with all the distractions your mind creates.
- A struggle to cope with personal grandiosity, ambition and pathological restlessness in a culture which nurtures immediate and ongoing gratification. We also find ourselves in a society that creates expectations for personal success regardless of the cost to ourselves and others. We are no better than our next sale, next take over, the next whatever. We demand cheaper goods and services regardless of the cost to human lives in our country or other nations so we can become sated. We find, however, that we are never sated and we bemoan the fact that we have become a debtor nation on the backs of the poor. Let us explore our hunger for more and demand justice for others in how we comport ourselves.
- A struggle to not be motivated by paranoia, fear, narrowness and over protectionism in the face of terrorism and overpowering complexity, to not let the need for clarity and security trump compassion and truth. This struggle is a result of our need to control what we think is ours. Look at the birds of the air, the lilies of the fields, Jesus told us, your Father is always mindful of them. Then he takes an even broader step by telling is to share what we have with generosity. By doing that we can begin to escape a rampant paranoia that we won’t have enough for we will encourage the generosity of others. Yes, the problems are complex but it is better to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and injured with compassion and thus built trust in a world that only sees war.
- A struggle with moral loneliness inside a religious, cultural, political and moral dispersed society; to find a soul mate who is there with us at our deepest level. Is there anyone out there who believes, feels and wants to make change happen? Are the rules of religion, culture, politics such that we turned off and dissuaded from finding others with whom we can share our lives?
- A struggle to link faith to justice, ecology and gender and to get a letter of reference from the poor. Like all of the struggles noted before, we must find ways to balance all by not placing ourselves as the center of the world. Justice can happen when we are willing to make a commitment to it. Our world ecology will not wither if we are willing to take steps to change our expectations and curb our demands on its bounty. Gender will cease to be a barrier when we value each individual as God’s special creation. Trappist monk Fr Louis, aka Thomas Merton, had a mystical experience on the streets of Nashville on the rare visit he made to his physician’s office. Standing there on a street corner he saw all around him radiating a brilliance that could only be God’s presence hidden in their lives. He mused that if everyone could have seen this there would be no more wars, hatred or fear yet there would also be an unhealthy desire to bow in worship to one another and not the God who is present among us.
- A struggle for community and church to find the healthy line between individuality and community, spirituality and religiosity, to be both mature and committed, spiritual and church to one another. Western culture has focused on the importance of the individual to the exclusion of the importance of the community. When faced with a tribal culture, western concepts of individuality could not and cannot grasp what this means in the lives of billions in the world. We need to learn to listen more to one another and see ourselves not as loners but part of a whole where the good of the individual is as important as the good of the whole community, where there is a synergy that must happen if we are to grow as God’s people.
by OMI priest, Ron Rolheiser