Monday, 16 March 2015

new networks and new wineskins

The web of meaning, by which ordinary adults makes sense of their life journey, has changed immeasurably over a single life time. The dimensions of our world have expanded so fast that the horizon of knowledge curves away into mysteries that threaten to overwhelm both heart and mind. The breadth of our universe, once restricted to a few light years around our world, is now so vast that mathematical figures become almost meaningless. The depth of our experience as human beings, opened up by psychological studies, means that we are probably still in the foothills of the journey to understanding people and relationships.

In the face of such mysteries the language of our traditional faith can seem na├»ve and medieval. The prayers we make to build God’s kingdom and to gain salvation seem, at times, quaint and childish in the light of such powerful revelations of science and psychology. The inner and outer spaces of our world may have been remapped in the last fifty years. But the map of meaning, the inner landscape of the Spirit, is being surveyed again as Christian faith seeks understanding for a new age.

One of the reasons that our parish churches are emptying is that they can no longer fill the emptiness of those who seek meaning. The spiritual hunger that fills the lives of many Christians is not satisfied by the economy of salvation being proposed in church. We do not respond to the language of merit which seems to be built into the new translation of the missal. Most of us struggle with the idea of atonement in which Jesus had to die in order to pay the debt of our sins. That kind of logic does not sit well alongside the compassionate and fatherly image of God proposed by Jesus.

The old thinking has a beautiful symmetry about it but it can no longer contain the experience of life as it is lived by the majority of people in western culture today. The only way to embrace the traditional way of thinking is to reject present reality- to act irrationally. To deny one’s own experience. Our dilemma as Christians is to find new containers for the faith we profess in Jesus. The old wine-skins have burst and we need to embrace the language of psychology and science in order to catch both faith and meaning in a new net of words from which we can feed our hungry souls.

St Francis of Assisi was told in a vision to "re-build my church" that is our task again today

Ninian Smart identified seven major aspects of religion through which our spiritual hungers are fed. here they are:

  1. Ritual:   Liturgy that makes sense of life
  2. Mythic: Stories that connect
  3. Experience/ emotion: Opportunity to express joy and sadness
  4. Social/ community; Faith relationships that mean something in life
  5. Ethical and legal: Commitment to shared values
  6. Doctrine: Belief in core truths that make sense
  7. Material: Objects and focal points that connect to the spiritual dimension of life
Some questions........
  • These are the seven ways that religion feeds spiritual hunger. How do you think we are doing as a catholic church in this culture in 2015?
  • How can we change?
  • Where would you start to make a change?