This has been rattling around in my heart for a long time but has recently struck me with pristine clarity: American Catholic Christians are deeply confused about who we are because we have lost touch with Christ's mission to save souls.
To some, that might be so baldly obvious that it hardly bears repeating. To others, it might provoke great defensive argument. (And of course others won't care at all.)
The liturgical cycle teaches us everything we need to know, and worship gives us all the sanctity we need. We need to live as saints, and specifically, each of us needs to become the particular saint God intends us to be. It really is that easy, and it certainly is nothing new. We can wring our hands and write books and strategize and give conferences but it really is this basic.
We have lost sight of our liturgical celebrations and liturgical seasons as having a launching dynamism. We have utterly forgotten the dramatic climax of Scripture (hint: it's supposed to be where we still live). We have made of Christ an idol to bow before, to whom we pay reverence while ignoring the mission He died to inaugurate.
How can we claim to love Christ and remain unconcerned with the desires of His heart? Yes, it is true that He desires that we ourselves be saved and grow in virtue. But if we have limited the scope of our spiritual concern to keeping ourselves out of hell, we suffer horrible myopic vision.
God prepared a people for a few thousand years through promises and covenants, and in the fullness of time sent His Son to establish the lasting covenant, and then prepared a new people in the Upper Room and unleashed them with His own power to go to the highways and byways of the entire world and call everyone to Himself. He provided a huge array of gifts, always changing to meet the need and to face the inevitable human and spiritual backlash.
There has been sin and division, and there has been sanctity and glory. But never has there been another plan announced from heaven about what Christ's Church essentially is: the presence of Jesus Christ in time and space.
And how can we know who we are if we don't know who Christ is?
Christ is the Messiah of Israel: the people God formed through His actions, His laws, His covenants, His prophets, and through their tremendous suffering. Christ opened up God's plan for a universal covenant of salvation for all people, Jew and Gentile. Christ gifted this covenant with human guardians whom He Himself guarantees. In the same way, He empowers with the Holy Spirit all who enter Him through this covenant. These gifts, when activated in and through faith, mutually upbuild the whole structure that is the Church. And the whole purpose of that Church is to continue bearing witness to Christ's resurrection, His life, His reality, His call, His power, His love, His truth.
We exist to announce to the world: come and join us in our mission of announcing and demonstrating the power and love of God, of rescuing souls from self-destruction and despair. It is not ourselves we preach, but Christ, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.
It is time Catholics step out of our confusion by the simple step of daily self-offering, nurtured by liturgical prayer and silence. Give God permission and space to act, expect Him to act, and respond as He speaks. Lather, rinse, repeat.
"Oh Lord, I am yours. Remove from my life those things that hinder me from you. Plant firmly in my life the people with whom you desire to form me. Teach me, guide me, and make me the believer you have created me to be."