Monday, July 14, 2014

A Metric for Missionary Disciples

What if we're all "on the spectrum"?  Wouldn't it be nice to evaluate to what extent we are "spiritually worldly" and to what extent we are becoming the "missionary disciples" Christ needs us to be?

The brief self-assessment below flows out of Pope Francis' commentary on "Spiritual Worldliness" in The Joy of the Gospel (EG, nn., 93-97).  The Holy Father lays out the issue as follows:  "Spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church, consists in seeking not the Lord's glory but human glory and personal well-being" (EG, n. 93).  So, take a quick look at where you stand in relation to the goal of growing in holiness as a missionary disciple of Jesus:
Spiritual Worldliness                                                 Missionary Discipleship           
0       1        2         3            4          5          6          7          8         9         10    
Seeking human glory                                                     Seeking the Lord's glory
and personal well-being                                                 and the well-being of others
Subtly pursuing                                                               Openly pursing
one's own interests                                                          Christ's interests
Cultivating appearances                                                  Cultivating ongoing
                                                                                         conversion of heart
Concerned with feeling                                                    Concerned with the
superior to others                                                             Gospel and the good
                                                                                         of others
Pursuing the pleasure of                                                  Embracing evangelical
complacency and self-indulgence                                   fervor
Attracted by elitism                                                          Willing to open the door
and classifying others                                                       of grace to others

Preoccupied with the Church                                            Concerned with the
as an institution, the property                                            Church as the People of 
of a select few                                                                   God, especially the poor 
Enjoying talk about                                                            Offering of one's life
"what needs to be done"                                                    in a spirit of service
Fascinated with social                                                        Bearing the mark of
and political gain                                                                Christ crucified and risen
The temptations to let ourselves become spiritually worldly are both subtle and multi-faceted.  We slip into it any time we embrace a bourgeois version of Christianity--a self-affirming, "wealth and wellness," milquetoast view of God's love which strips the Gospel of the mystery of the Cross.  We also slip into it whenever we assume a Pharisaical vision--a self-righteous, self-asserting rejection of God's grace which empties the Gospel of the gift of divine mercy revealed in Jesus. 
Such spiritual worldliness calls to mind Jesus' stern warnings in the parable of the sower:  The Word of God simply cannot flourish on the path or on rocky ground or among the thorns.  Indeed, spiritual worldliness kills the only thing that ultimately counts, God's life and love in us.  It is only rich, well cultivated soil which can bear fruit and yield "a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold" (Mt 13:23).  This rich soil describes the heart of a missionary disciple, the one who has broken open the well-worn dirt of the path, has unearthed the stultifying stones, and has uprooted those relentless weeds. 

In the words of Pope Francis, "this stifling worldliness can only be healed by breathing in the pure air of the Holy Spirit who frees us from self-centeredness cloaked in an outward religiosity bereft of God" (EG, n. 97).  As aspiring missionary disciples, let's continue to open ourselves to the transforming presence of the Spirit, and let's ponder what we really mean when we say "I Believe in Jesus".