Taking a serious look at our church

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This past week Pope Francis made a sweeping pronouncement of change in the way the Church is doing things. Instead of “business as usual” and “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” we are being admonished to step back and take a serious look at our church.

“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,” the Pope said in a major new statement. “I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures,” Francis added.

In our readings today, we are told of other sweeping changes. The temple – the Old Testament symbol of the world – will be destroyed. Those trapped in the everyday patterns of life will be swept away. But there is hope for those who are alert and watching. There is hope for those who are ready to rebuild the temple of God, not with a material base, but formed with the hearts of the people.

The Pope has promised a fresh look at the church. We are asked this Advent, as we are each year at this time, to take a fresh look at our own lives. We need to pause, step back away from the busyness of the holidays, and find Christ anew in ourselves as well as in others. The old ways will bring doom if we are not alert. We must identify what separates us from those not walking in the way of the light, and build on that.

So what sort of action do I personally need to take? Looking around me, I see my house filled with clutter – so much that dirt creeps into the cracks where I never have time to reach – or can’t be bothered. I am content with “clean enough.” Perhaps this is also true of my spiritual life. I give it a “lick and a promise” and figure I’ll get around to it later. Right now my life is busy with other things and I don’t think I have the time and energy to spend on another “churchy” project. I don’t have the money to spare for that donation. Yes, my life is cluttered with business and other things of interest. It is probably true that the dirt of sin is being allowed to seep into the cracks because I haven’t taken the time to set it all straight. Perhaps that’s what Advent is for – taking time to clean our spiritual lives.

I can begin with designating more prayer time. Every morning when I’m doing dishes, I can pause for prayer. I can mark a block of time in my schedule as “time out” – time for quiet reflection. I can smile at a stranger, give someone a compliment, say thank you to someone for doing a routine task. I can go out of my way for someone else. Advent can become a time to reach out and make someone else’s life better, if only for a small moment.

When I pause and relook, I can see lots of small ways to refresh my Christianity. I can see opportunities to clear out the selfcentered sins and let Christ’s light shine so I, too, can walk in the light of the Lord.

Linda Crowley