These days, most of my weeks are filled with retreats and discussions with retreatants. At the weekend, I usually travel to local parishes to get a flavor for the parish and the groups who visit the retreat house where I work, Mater Dolorosa.
This past weekend, my wife Sally and I visited a parish in Pasadena, CA. The pastor there introduced an interesting concept in his homily; the practice of external worship. I had never heard this description before. The pastor, Fr. Mike, was describing, in his view, how the Church has lost its way in the management and oversight regarding the most recent revelations in the sexual scandal. In his analysis he used the term “external worship” as a means of illustrating how key members of the Church are more concerned how the “external” view of the Church became more important than a personal, and deep relationship with Jesus Christ.
His words struck home. If we, or anyone in a position of oversight, somehow separate the appearance of worship and the love Christ has for us is on a road which has been paved in the past. During the time of Jesus, the Pharisees, played the same cards and it became clear an authentic nature of worship was lost. If we, or others, engage in an appearance of worship, “external worship” we also beckon the same fate.
Fr. Mike called his flock to meet Christ at the Foot of the Cross, no matter how painful the process. Times such as this test our faith, but we always know we can rely on Christ to be there for us. No matter what. It is this closeness and fidelity to our personal relationships with Christ which sustains us when things are tough. Not wallpapering with a “fake” worship offered which has no depth to it; the stain will eventually make its way through for all to see.
As a sage local parishioner noted this week “Nothing, absolutely nothing, comes between me and Christ. That is the sacred space in my life, nothing an impinge on it, regardless of who they are and what they have done.”
The Cross continues to provide the illumination, the insight we need during these difficult times.
Peace and All Good.