Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Thought

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”  Aristotle

Being open-minded and willing to listen is, in the truest sense, being “liberal”; “liberal” having its root in the Latin “libre” which means “liberty”.  That is, we have the capacity and the freedom to think as we will think.  Being “educated” (not strictly about the degrees we may have earned) is to be simply informed and open to new ideas without feeling threatened.  I think it must be that when we close our minds to opinions, perspectives, and observations that do not mesh with our own (and this includes very educated persons!), we are actually uncertain about what we really believe; we are unwilling to risk what we have already settled in our minds.

This is the state of the Church today.  We impose “liberal”, “conservative”, and other labels more often in demeaning and demonizing ways without really understanding – or even willing to understand – where our fellows are coming from.  It is a lot like believing there can be such a thing as “common” sense when in reality, few of us have “common” backgrounds.  We all have different as well as some shared experiences from our past that we have been conditioned to.  It is that staple which makes us feel good about ourselves.  It is our comfort.  Often we mistakenly believe it to be our strength when in reality, it may be our greatest weakness.

In order to fully appreciate that the strength of the Church is actually found in its diversity, we must be willing to listen just as we wish to be listened to.  There is no need to preface a discussion, an argument, a debate, or some pretense of “holy conferencing” with a preset agenda and/or an accusatory finger pointed at others.  This is the sure way to guarantee there will be no discussions, no new ideas, and no consensus.  Worst of all, it is the surest way to close the door to the possibly of the Holy Presence.

It has been said that perception is reality regardless of its truth, but reality is also not always what it seems.  Seeing something with our eyes only means we can see what is physically present; we cannot know all there is to know about what we are seeing, but our backgrounds and traditions and experiences will fill in the blanks for us impulsively.  This is not always a good thing!

In order for the Church to be all the Church is called to be, all “members” must be present (whether one’s name in a “book” or on a “role” is not quite relevant); the arms, the legs, the eyes, the ears must be together physically and spiritually just as St. Paul teaches.  The Church cannot function to its fullest potential without everyone on board – even those who dissent.  Yet this biblical reality is what does not set well with us as individuals because we have come to believe our journey is done and our obligations fulfilled once we are “saved”.  We withdraw from the Church because it is no longer “needed” – and the Church is further weakened with each absence.  Worse than this, our spiritual growth is stunted.  Not only is the Church weakened, but so are we as individuals.  We fail to realize the depth of our need for the Church until we actually need the Church.

No one can possibly know all there is to know.  It is why the Church exists, and it is why discipleship is a lifelong journey of learning and growing and doing until we are finally called “Home”.  The Lord alone knows what we may discover tomorrow as long as we do not shut ourselves off to new ideas, perspectives, opinions, and experiences.  And we will never know if we choose to disengage from the only Source of Life there is: Christ, who is the Head of the Church.

Yes, we may be convicted by a new word.  We may find that what we have been doing all along is not ok.  We may discover that the path we chose for ourselves is actually the road to perdition, but we will never know if we do not stop once in awhile and ask “directions”.  Make no mistake; that “inner voice” is not always The Lord!

Listen.  Look.  Learn.  Grow.  This is real life, and it is the life in pursuit of holiness we are called to.



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