In the face of a culture of secularism, consumerism, economic inequality, diminishment of the value of human beings – especially those who are different from me – and the list goes on, the stance of the Church must not be preaching about or idealizing a bygone past – the golden age of a Church of yesterday – a time that we can never expect to regain.
Such an approach risks separating the Church even more than it is from a culture that is on the move and doesn’t wait.
We live in a culture of nihilism – a culture in which there is nothing. There is no such reality as value, truth, faith, life beyond the grave, the human person, justice, equality; there is no God-reality, the earth is there for me to use and enjoy as I wish. There is only the present moment and nothing more.
Truth is what I want it to be, the only reality is the reality I see and experience. Relationship is a fantasy – meaning is what I desire. I take all and then I am gone. I am not my brother’s keeper, I stand alone and I do as I choose – and then it is over.
This dehumanization is the challenge of the Church. Human beings are told they have no value and are treated without value.
The life and mission of the Church depends more and more on her ability to engage in a culture of encounter. Encounter is the face-to-face experience in which I affirm the goodness and value and meaning of another – one by one, person by person.
This mission of encounter needs to include all who seek to humanize our pluralistic and secular society.
Pope Francis champions the culture of encounter or synodality. It is the fundamental work of renewing the value of human right and dignity – and it needs to be done in today’s world.
More about this later.
Fr. Steve Adrian