"If mankind forgets God this is also because Jesus is often reduced to the status of a wise man, and His divinity is diminished if not denied outright. This way of thinking makes it impossible to comprehend the radical novelty of Christianity ,.."
So the Holy Father said, recently.
And so I have seen, recently.
When Jesus is seen as a nice man, a wise man, a prophet who came to teach us to be our own versions of nice, then Christianity is reduced to a laundry list of to dos.. Be nice to your neighbour, help a friend, don't judge , don't criticise.
We miss the challenge, the radical call to reason and to love, to relationship, to worship.
And Christianity then becomes another self help organization... As in the style of the self help books I perused last weekend at Dymocks...Ten Steps to A Better You, Be The Best You Can Be, Your Best Life Ever.
Or.. Create Your Own Miracle in Forty Days.
And.. Lose Weight, Be Happier and Have More Energy in 10 Days.
As one son said, I am surprised that it can't be done in one week..
If Jesus is seen as just another teacher, then not only is God missed and bypassed but so, too, is bypassed any real challenge to love and to know.
These are replaced by that bland, beige niceness... That niceness that makes salvation hard, to paraphrase C. S. Lewis again. (I'm alright , Jack. I'm nice without God)
We do our children a disservice, too, when we water down Christ and His Church and her teachings. If, in an effort to be relevant, we swab clean our terms and our teaching, if we don't share the hard stuff .
Take a recent lesson for Catechism class. On the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Fortitude? Wisdom? And the ilk?
No, the teacher's manual spoke of gifts the children could supposedly understand. Sharing. Helping another.
I'm sorry but sharing as a gift of the Holy Spirit just makes Christianity look like yet another set of classroom rules... We help one another. We share. We respect other people's property. Ad infinitum. Chanted daily. Pointed to when misdemeanors occur. Watered down. Wishy washy. Almost meaningless.
And misses God and the Holy Spirit all together.
"Jesus wants us to be nice to others."
Bypassing the challenge to relationship, to knowledge.
And don't tell me that children today can't understand the faith, have no need of challenge.
In a secular world, one in which they grow up all too fast, there is a need for a real, attractive alternative. Something that makes them stop and think. Something outside themselves and the dumbed down curriculum.
So today I introduced the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Including Awe and Wonder, or Fear of the Lord. We had flashcards. We had meanings in one or two words or small phrases. We played a game showing visible and invisible gifts. We broke into groups and the seven and eight year olds got it... They illustrated, by picture and in words, their group's gift.
No bypassing God.
No watered down terminology.
No lukewarm list of beige, unfeeling niceness.
But a call, a challenge, to think and to know.
And eventually to love.
And no moralistic therapeutic deism..." a watered-down faith that portrays God as a “divine therapist” whose chief goal is to boost young people’s self-esteem".