Thursday, 22 November 2012

Church of Entitlement

I've been reading a lot about the Church lately that has me a little irked. The general reaction reminds me of the old saying "What have you done for ME lately?". The feeling of entitlement is just sickening. The issues spawn from what we think is our right, our due. Changes to the priesthood, change in worship styles, changes in sexual ethics, demanding sacraments on our own terms, viewing the Church as a pretty building for hire at the right price, wanting to have your pastor's personal line on speed dial, etc.

Every one of these issues find their root in our feeling of entitlement. We want the Church to serve our will, our desire, and our vision. The Church is there to serve us yes, but not because we deserve anything. Christ called us to serve the weak, the unworthy, and the sinners (of which most if not all of us fall into all three categories). The Church's service to us, however, does not mean that She is meant to bow down to our human knowledge, will, and societal demands. The Church is not a teenager bowing down to peer pressure. She is the Bride of Christ, and must, like her Heavenly Spouse, bear witness to the truths God has taught us through Holy Scripture and through our long Tradition. To change Her ways to appeal to current societal appeals is to deny Her dignity. Her duty is now and has always been to present Christ to us, through God's word, through the Sacraments He instituted in Her, especially through the Most Sacred Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Nothing else the world tells us we need can compare to the mystery and glory of the Eucharist.

The fact that I can even dare to approach the altar of God, for which I am eminently unworthy, is a miracle of unending mercy and grace. My worthiness comes not from my good deeds, my own time in devoted prayer, or even by nature of my humanity, even though I was made in God's image. I am fallen, spoiled, and broken. I am a distorted image of God. I can never rise on my own to a level of dignity high enough to deserve to even sit at the foot of the Altar to bask in the wonder of His Presence. The only reason I can even begin to approach the Lord, and even then with soul-rending humility, is because Christ has taken on my sin and allowed me to take upon myself His worthiness. I am alive in God on borrowed grace that I fight to continue to accept every day I live. My baptism has saved me and the Eucharist brings me into the body of Christ and sustains me. Despite my brokenness, Christ has given me mercy.

In that light, the Church owes me nothing. The Church has already given me more than I can ever deserve as She shares with me through Her anointed ministers the Sacraments of Christ. To come to Her with a sense of entitlement and demand She bend to my will is to throw back in Her face and that of Her Spouse the gift of the Cross. How can I say what She offers is too little when She is Christ to me as I await Heaven?

All I can ask of my Church is that Her ministers remain accountable, truthful, and that they do everything they can to maintain Her in the same dignity Christ gave to Her on Calvary. At times we may choose to adorn Her in different ways and delve more deeply into the truths She protects, but we must always strive to protect Her true beauty, which is the Sacraments. We must request them with great discernment and humility and accept them with a bowed heart and not a grasping hand. At times we must step back and realise we still cannot ask for the Sacraments because of our state of sinfulness or even the realisation that not all Sacraments are meant for us individually. Our Church is not a fast food chain. The altar is not a table. The Eucharist is not bread, but the Very Body and Blood of our Saviour, broken and poured out for us as a ransom from death. Let us treat the Church as holy ground, not as a place where we can place our order and expect it to be filled to the letter. Approach the Altar of Christ with sorrow and weeping as you would the Cross, and give thanks for what you have been given in the depths of your sinfulness and leave your self-entitled requests at the door. In doing that and accepting Christ in the Sacraments as God has ordained them for you, you will find great joy, peace, and fulfilment than any plan you could conceive for yourself.

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