The Church is You!
Lately, I have been hearing a lot of this lingo: goods and services, bang-for-the-buck, price-sensitive, and even value-engineering (which means do it on the cheap). Phrases like these bring up a question, which may not be immediately apparent, but lingers underneath the surface and influences our perspective: “What am I getting out of it?” or, “what’s it worth to me?”
In conversations, usually off-campus at restaurants or around town, my invitation to come to church sometimes receives this reply: “I don’t come (anymore) because I don’t get anything out of it.” Church does not speak to me. It’s a waste of time. We can have this idea of gym memberships or magazine subscriptions, but parish life?
Lately with all the hubbub on tariffs and trade talks, experts have labeled President Trump’s style as “transactional.” He is the author of a book on deal-making and he does insist on getting the best deal for America. I am not trying to praise or criticize the president, just pointing out the reality that this “deal-making” and consumerism is “in the water.” Consumerism is the prevailing cultural wind.
It is reasonable, therefore, to perceive the logic of consumerism bleeding into parish life. If we are used to seeing the world as a marketplace, an expanse of goods and services, it can become part of the way we see our time and dedication to church.
Deeper reflection recognizes, however, that the richest aspects of life are not transactional. Parents don’t raise children to “get something out of it.” Do they? How much is a smile or laughter worth? Good deeds performed for others to see, or with the hope of return, are not the kind that Jesus commends. We offer our help with “no strings attached.”
With our Faith, with church attendance and parish engagement, with living discipleship, we ought to try and avoid any semblance of consumerism. Living our Faith is not a value proposition. We are not doing the right thing in order to somehow earn heaven.
Heaven is a gift and following Jesus is first about having a friendship with him. Although we have different roles, we are all fellow disciples on the road with Jesus. We are all followers after Jesus. And our charge (you may be tired of me saying it) is to build up the Kingdom of God in our little corner of the world. All of us! We have the responsibility to transform Maple Shade into a paradise where the Gospel reigns.
Hence the title: the Church is you! The Church is you; in fact, the Church is all of us. We are all in this “thing” together. And the measure of our thriving is the measure of our engagement . How we flourish reflects how well we are all committed to the mission of the Gospel.
And remember that classic tune,
“The Best Things in Life are Free!”
With my blessing,