As Scotty said in last year’s Star Trek: “I like this ship! You know, it’s exciting!” Replace ‘ship’ with ‘Church’ and you’ve arrived at the point I want to make in this post.
In various blogs I’ve been reading defenses of orthodoxy and explanations of why young people would feel attracted to that. These comments are responses to the more liberal quarters of the Church (in many ways still a majority in the Dutch Church) and their apparent surprise at these young people and their choices: if they choose to go to Church, they often choose the more orthodox parishes and communities, whereas the worldly ones should, by all logic, be more appealing.
The aforementioned blogs mention the spiritual emptiness of the liberal camp and their hostility towards people who look for honest and through catechesis. I think another good point is that the orthodox position is not only more honest and true to the Church, but it is also challenging. Young people, and I use that term broadly, are not attracted to sedate coziness and empty warmth. That can be fun, but it is hardly a goal in life. Young people are intelligent, well-educated and want to be challenged accordingly.
“Because you do not belong to the world, because my choice of you has drawn you out of the world, that is why the world hates you” (John 15: 19).
If we do not belong to the world, although we live in it, we can’t let the world dictate our lives. Jesus dictates our lives. He asks us to leave the world behind, to not let it hold us back:
“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16: 24-25).
In return, He says, we will find life. But we are alive already, right? Certainly, but that will end. Christ promises us not only eternal life, but also the fulfillment of our lives here.
“Everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much, and also inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29).
These are challenges, they are difficult, but they come with one important benefit: we have the best coach anyone can hope for.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, look!-your reward will be great in heaven” (Luke 6: 22-23a).
How does this fit a faith community which is solely founded on human needs, focussing on community, on being warm, open, welcoming? Sure, openness and warmth are good. We need the support and brotherhood we find in our parishes and communities. But Christ never took that as the point of His ministry? He took it as read. He callled the Twelve to accompany Him, and later He sent the disciples off in pairs, to spread the Good News. Not alone, but with company. But did he call a group of men, and did he sent pairs off, so they could have some nice conversation, so that they could feel part of a group? No. He called and sent them to become men of God and to make others men of God, to spread the Good News of the incarnation and to follow Him.
And that is the challenge we have been given. Jesus asks us to work, to give ourselves, to suffer and to hurt sometimes, but we know why we do it: for Him and for eternal life in God. Nothing less than that. And that is the challenge that should be appealing to many: our work, our effort, with the oh-so-necessary guidance and support from the Father through His Son, is how we can and must achieve it. That is a faith that challenges, that promises and to achieve that we must live life to the fullest. That is orthodoxy: not giving up when it seems difficult, keeping your eye on the prize, and not allowing yourself to be distracted by what is temporary.