Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why the empty show of our belief?

In the book of Exodus, Aaron and the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai, waited for Moses to return from the mount. They had seen him go up there with their own eyes, yet in his absence they began to say to Aaron "Get up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him." Impatiently they requested an idol, the golden calf, to be made so that they could honour it for their journey out of Egypt. Now, you would wonder how could such a terrible thing be done by a people so close to the immediate workings and in the presence of God?
Earlier in the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve were tempted by fruit that was "pleasant to the eyes"; and God needed to drive them out from the Garden of Eden.
Idol worship has always been popular. In the book of Kings, when Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, 450 of Baal’s prophets and 400 prophets of the groves which ate at Jezebel’s table were present. And they did not lack courage, boldness, or zeal. What was lacking? The power of God; Baal was no God.
King David, in the book of Samuel, brought the ark of God on a new cart; not on the shoulders of the priests as God had ordained. There were thousands watching, with much music, and zeal. But it lacked God’s favor and David’s purpose of bringing the ark was frustrated. Later, when he brought the ark in the prescribed humility, he received the approval of God.
Israel was always prone to follow the form of a sacrificial religion without the power of God. The Lord complains of Israel’s false, empty religion in the book of Isaiah saying, "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? When you have required all this to come before me, to come to my Church? I am weary to bear them." They had grieved the Lord and He then scolded them, "Wash yourselves and make yourselves clean." God looks on the heart and despises all formal, empty customs.
Many churches in the late 1700’s were involved in using plays and various musical ideas as "means," as they called them, in their worship services. And no one dared oppose such mockery in the worship of Christ. Our fathers in the faith of that age condemned all such practices; as should we.
Man, through the ages, has sought to see, to hear, to feel and to "experience God". But when God withdraws Himself from that "experience" because of our sin and disbelief, then, although Christianity continues, it is lacking something.
Today, we are surrounded with this same type of empty profession of Christianity. Everything can be made "Christian" and everything in the Holy Scriptures may be represented and used at one’s whim in the effort to bring the message of Jesus to every creature. Nativity scenes, Passion Plays, reenactments of all parts of the Bible are commonplace. Is it any wonder that today we have gospel rock concerts, praise festivals, pageants, and all sorts of entertainment everywhere? The gospel of today is easy Christianity which preaches a Jesus of love and then encourages "what can I do for Jesus". All such religion is busy inventing all sorts of things to paint images; images of a Jesus and of a God that are not according to Scripture. Rather, they are false images formed in the minds of the young and old; tactics used by the devil to deceive many.
Many symbols of Christian celebration today also lack the presence and power of God. They are all an empty, flesh pleasing worship of God, created in the minds of people, but not according to His holy will.
God must be worshipped according to His own revealed will and way. What did God require of us in the second commandment? - That we in no wiseman intellect represent God by any other way than "He has commanded in His Word".
More recently a Chris Stephens had operated a transport service for disabled veterans for several years, but the business didn’t take off. "Like Moses coming out Egypt, I wandered around in the wilderness for a while until I found this." he said. His trips began to include gospel singing, stops at area restaurants and other amenities to provide comfort to veterans dealing with major physical and emotional challenges. Stephens said his business brought him in contact with veterans of a variety of religions, and they would often discuss each other’s traditions. "It’s not trying to press Christ upon anybody, but it’s about being led wherever you need to be." he conceded.
Our Parents and God-parents at our birth and baptism are prone to give far greater attention to the reception for the guests than to co-joining us in receiving the Sacrament. The preparation of their hearts with catering, decor, music, etc. seems to have a far greater share of their time than the preparation of their souls for occasion. This trend continues with us through the years with our Birthdays, Communions, Confirmations, Ordinations, Engagements and Weddings. Even a fair amount of Funerals, and the Month’s mind and Anniversary Masses that follow, meet the same fate. The Sacred aspect is either lost completely or conveniently left aside forgotten.
In our daily life we too seem to have wandered down this same gravy path. The Saturday night fever burns out our desire to attend Holy Mass on a Sunday, our day of obligation in the week. Resting after partying through the weekend is important to stay fresh and fit for another hard, grueling week of studies or work.
Carnivals leading up to Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season, Easter, Christmas and various religious feasts all have one vying to ensure that the Sorpotel and Sunnas and the sweet delicacies along with the elaborate celebrations that accompany them are far more prominent in our lives than the Church services, that, incidentally, we find ‘too long or boring’ for our warped sensibilities.
But, we are Catholics; we do join one or more of our Parish organisations, regularly attend Church meetings and are in time for Parish functions, write letters and blogs, send emails, etc. as seemingly devout Catholics fulfilling our obligations. The Church, its teachings and what God really requires of us as His flock remain on paper.
Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves why we allow such a religion flourish in our lives? Why do we prefer such an outward, shallow and empty show of our belief in God?