A Time of Preparation

Dear Friends in Christ:

We continue our Advent journey. Next weekend, we continue our parish tradition of Gift Giving Sunday. This tradition which goes back to the early years of our parish, is where each of our parish families is asked to bring a wrapped gift for a needy child for Christmas. These gifts are then brought forward after the proclamation of the gospel and placed before the altar. At the end of the day, the gifts, expressions of our faith in Jesus, the Savior of the World, and love for our neighbor, are distributed throughout the Houston area through various churches and social service agencies to be given to children who otherwise may not have any gifts on Christmas Day. This year more than ever, there are so many families in need. As so many of our parish families are suffering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, many more throughout our area are also suffering and are not as blessed or capable as we are in working towards recovery. Please keep the poor and suffering in your thoughts and prayers this Advent and always. At the same time, please do not forget our parishioners, neighbors and friends whose homes have been flooded and are out of their homes this Christmas. Reach out to them and keep them in your prayers during this time of trial and suffering.

These are indeed strange times in which we are living. I recently saw on the news some very sympathetic reports concerning groups of atheists and satanists who were demanding to erect monuments to Satan and atheism on public spaces. Their requests were approved by the civil authorities. It was also reported that the Archdiocese of Washington was prohibited from purchasing advertising on the D.C. Metro system encouraging people to go to church at Christmas! We see the continued assault on public nativity scenes and the lauding in the media and on social media of a “gay nativity”. Religious observance by Christians is mocked and scorned while mass shootings are lamented. The world has indeed gone mad! I would love to tell you that things are getting better but sadly I do not think they are. Such behavior actually is understandable, if we take a step back and look at the larger picture.

The current state of affairs is rooted in two causes, a denial of God (with a simultaneous embrace of evil) and the failure of Christians to fully live their faith. Again and again, our social, educational, cultural and political institutions reject God and embrace a Secularism that increasingly excludes any possibility for the acceptance or tolerance of a belief in God. Because human beings have an innate and natural desire to believe, we replace God with the state, the self, pleasure, power, comforts, false idols and ideologies. There is nothing new here, yet people fail to see the devastation and destruction where such ways ultimately and necessarily lead. The psalmist said it best, “The fool says in his heart there is no God!” Ps 14.1. But why is such lethal foolishness becoming more prevalent in our culture and society today? Simply because so many Christians have compromised their faith. Rather than embracing the gospel fully with our whole lives, we have settled for a “Gospel-lite”. We have bought into a faith that requires little of us and provides us with the cheap grace of happy feelings and niceties. This belief system has been described by the term, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). We have effectively and successfully removed Christ from Christianity and replaced the Jesus of the gospels with a really nice guy who approves of everything and never disagrees with us and our choices. Instead of dogma and doctrine, commandments and precepts, we have sentimentality and feelings of being nice to everyone with the ultimate doctrine of always feeling good about ourselves. Instead of sin and repentance, forgiveness and mercy, we have victimization and retribution. While the hecklers on Calvary only jeered “If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross!” (Mt 27:40), we have successfully removed Jesus from the cross! In a Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, Christianity-lite, Gospel-lite or Cafeteria Catholicism, there are few or no sins and thus no need for a savior or his cross!

Advent is a time of preparation for the Second Coming of the Lord, who will judge the living and the dead. We all need to honestly ask ourselves, “Am I ready?”

In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately