Thursday, June 07, 2007

the New Donatism

I am increasingly aware of a new Donatism which has crept into our worship lives.

Do we need a new Augustine to go to battle with it? (Pictured: Augustine of Hippo refuting heretic, 13th century manuscript).

The focus of this resurrected heresy is not on the validity of the priest as of old but, as befits a post-Vatican II Church, on the "worship experience" of the community.

The litmus test confirming the validity of worship is not doctrine or practice or faithfulness or orthodoxy. The new benchmark is how meaningful the worship is to me.

Do I feel close to God?
Am I being fed?
Does this Mass and this homily make ME feel "spiritual?"

I've heard it all before.
And it sounds surprisingly similar to the affluenza afflicting our whole society,
an advertising-induced, mass-produced consumerized dissatisfaction with things as they are.

"I'm not being fed."
"The music is too contemporary."
"The music is too old -fashioned."
"The homilies are too long."
"The church building is too __________." (fill in the blank- ornate, bare, cold, hot, large, small)
Take your pick.

I am privileged to visit a variety of local parishes in my daily work and often I get to worship with them. And I observe that some of these criticisms are very valid.

However, from today's Gospel reading we learn what REALLY counts in the Kingdom of God: two things, loving God and loving others.

Mk 12,28-34.

"One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied, "The first is this: 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, 'He is One and there is no other than he.' And 'to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself' is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that (he) answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And no one dared to ask him any more questions."

How do we live this commandment out in our "churchly" worship lives? faithfully attending Mass whenever we can and by helping others to see and live the truth of God's love.

That's where the kingdom of God is.
We should go there.
And Augustine agrees.
Surprise, surprise, surprise!
Saint Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo (North Africa) and Doctor of the Church
De Trinitate, VIII, 12 ; PL 42, 958
"Whoever does not love his brother does not remain in love; and those who do not remain in love do not remain in God, “for God is love”. (1Jn 4:8) Further, anyone who does not remain in God, does not live in light, for "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."(1Jn 1:5) He therefore who does not live in light, what wonder is it that he does not see light, that is, does not see God, because he is in darkness? He sees his brother with human sight, with which God cannot be seen. But if he loved with spiritual love those whom he sees with human sight, he would see God, who is love itself, with the inner sight by which he can be seen...

Let us not ask how much love we ought to spend upon our brother and how much upon God: incomparably more upon God than upon ourselves, but upon our brother as much as upon ourselves; and we love ourselves more, the more we love God. Therefore we love God and our neighbor from one and the same love; but we love God for his own sake, and ourselves and our neighbors for the sake of God. "

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