Jesus gives us the Parable in which
the King sends the invitation the wedding feast of his son and many make up
excuses to beg out of the Banquet. Apparently they have other obligations more
important and pressing, they insult the Kings servant and even kill some of
them.The King, infuriated, kills them
and then destroys their cities. Not giving up and tenaciously persistent, the
King sends out more servants, but this time he goes out to the hedge groves and
allies and brings them in to the banquet. One is not properly dressed and has
no justification; he is cast out of the Banquet hall. Jesus ends with these
stark words: “Many are called but few are chosen.”Parables of Jesus are human stories with
divine messages. They challenge us to leave our complacency and to follow Jesus
all the more authentically.
Let us look objectively at the
society and the Catholic Church today and see where we are at. True there are a
big number of Catholics, at least “baptized Catholics”, more than a billion.
However, how many are really living out their faith.
Being a priest for more than 28 years
and having worked in various countries—Europe, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and
USA I would like to make these observations as to the reasons why so many
Catholics, like the Parable above just cited, have almost countless excuses for
simply not coming to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which in terms of the
Parable is bowing out of the Wedding Banquet of the King and His Son!
Invite even from the streets!
This pastoral observation will serve
to help us who are laboring strenuously in the Vineyard of the Lord to work
zealously but in the right direction to save souls for the Eternal King.In other words for us to bring back the
wandering and lost souls we must know them, the reason why they have left and
give a remedy or solution to the problem. Of course a deep reading of Pope
“Joy of the Gospel” will be of immense help in our work in bringing back the
wandering sheep into the fold.Remember
the challenging words of Jesus, the Good Shepherd of the flock and our Model
and example: “The harvest is rich, but the laborers are few.”
Not properly dressed for the Wedding Feast!
Following are reasons why the sheep
have wandered away from the flock—why these have left the practice of the faith
and reception of the life-giving Sacraments!
1.BAD EXPERIENCE.Some wandering Catholics complain of having
left the Church because they had an ugly experience with some other catholic
that deeply hurt him. Priests (themselves), Deacons, Parish Secretaries, catechists,
and simply practicing Catholics who have given bad example can alienate other
Catholics that might be fragile or weak in the faith. A harsh and cutting word,
a snide remark, a sarcastic gesture, being aloof and cold, a sharp rebuke—any
one of these gestures done to a fragile soul could be the last straw that broke
the camel’s back! This could be sufficient to expel this person from the
practice of the faith. How to remedy this fatal flaw? Kindness and charity!
Saint Augustine was once asked three times on what should be practiced towards
others and the great saint said these words: Kindness, Kindness, and once again
Kindness! Saint Francis de Sales coined a classic:“You can catch more flies with a tea spoon of
honey than with a barrel of vinegar.”
Catholic asleep at Mass!
2.SCANDAL IN THE CHURCH.It cannot be side stepped the painful and
true reality of scandals in the Church that have been brought to light,
especially over the past 10 to 15 years, that those who have chosen to serve
the Lord as priests, some Religious and even Bishops have failed the Lord!
Instead of giving example as Good Shepherd to the Sheep have been transformed
into ravenous wolves to the flock! Obviously this scandal pierces the Sacred
Heart of the Good Shepherd and has wreaked havoc in the flock. What can we say
to repair for and to remedy such a serious blow to the Church? First, we beg
for pardon and forgiveness to the world at large as the past recent Popes have
done clearly and publically. Also, we must pray for future priests, but only
those who are firmly committed to celibacy 100%, to love for Jesus as the
center of their lives and to a fiery apostolic zeal to save souls and to go in
search for the lost sheep.
3.DISTRACTIONS IN THE MODERN
WORLD.On one occasion a Pastor came
from Africa to the USA and he was asked what he thought was the greatest
impediment in USA for the spreading of the Word and the Kingdom and the African
Pastor, even without much thought, blurted out one word: DISTRACTIONS!Interesting observation from a foreigner!
What exactly did he mean? The following: T.V., radio, sports, movies, parties
and picnics, the Mode, the Internet and the Electronics media, casinos and
horse-races and gambling, and finally: “It is Miller time!” Not that all of
these pursuits and entertainments are down- right sinful. However, how easy it
is to be so totally absorbed and immersed in these diversions that on Sunday
Holy Mass has been forgotten or relegated to a secondary place of importance.
As one well-known priest put it:“In the
USA Sundays have become like another Saturday.”
Couples living together in sin!
4.IMMORAL LIFE-STYLE.Frequently disgruntled and angry Catholics
will point their condemning finger of judgment against the Catholic Church for
the church’s many failures, but in the heart of hearts of all too many today
there is a serious personal problem. It is this: an inability to come to terms
with and live out the demanding sexual morality that the Church has taught the
past 2000 years! Our Lady of Fatima said in 1917 that many marriages are bad,
modes will enter the world (most likely referring to dress codes) that will
gravely offend God; finally, Our Lady said that most souls are lost and go to
hell because of sins against the virtue of purity. With respect to leaving the
Church, Mass and the Sacraments, many young people (and some not so young!!!)
have decided to simply live together in free union or to simply have a
civil-marriage. In the eyes of Jesus and His Bride the Church this is
objectively wrong and choosing to live in a permanent state of mortal sin. This
being the case, this couple has willfully severed themselves from the
life-giving Vine. Jesus said: “I am the Vine and you are the branches; my
Father cuts off the branches that do not bear fruit.” (Jn. 15) These couples,
due their living condition that they freely chose, can no longer receive Jesus,
the Bread of Life, in Holy Communion. This being the case, when going to Holy
Mass and Communion time has arrived, many other people are getting up to
receive Holy Communion and they are forced to stay in the pew—like spiritual
“bench-warmers” (Sports image) and watch the others receive Jesus, the living
Bread who came down from heaven to give us life and life in abundance. In time,
feeling uncomfortable not being able to receive, this couple decides to either
leave the Church or possibly go to some Protestant Church, where they can have
free access to receivingin the
Communion service that may be available once a month. “Bye, bye Catholic
church!Welcome Protestant Church!” A
possible remedy?Why not invite this
estranged couple to meet with a priest who could outline the conditions to have
their marriage blessed in the Church so that they can be in full-communion with
the Church. Also, invite them to some dynamic and well-prepared weekend
marriage retreat to get the ball rolling down the right hill!!!
Honey, come' on! Let's go to Mass!!!
Conclusion, we have just explained a
few reasons for the enormous exodus from the Catholic Church in the past few
decades. Our intentions is with this article to encourage fervent and zealous
followers of Jesus to seek out these lost sheep and bring them back to the arms
of the Good Shepherd. God-willing another article will follow to explain other
reasons why many leave the Catholic Church and how we can bring them back to
the loving embrace of the Father!