The latest statistics on church attendance should awaken in us a desire to let others know the joy of being a believer. Here is the latest data on church attendance: Gallup’s 2015 data shows only 24% of Catholics attend mass on a regular basis.
We fail to see this decline when we go to church because it seems as if the church is full. Yet this data is nothing new as church attendance has been declining for decades. We, you and I, not the “church” is failing to bring others to a belief in Christ. If you think that is not true, just look at this statistic: according to Pew Research data, only 64% of Catholics have an absolute belief in God. We are not only losing attendance, 1/3 of the people who identify themselves as Catholic are saying they do not have an absolute faith that tells them there is a God.
Luke in his gospel this Sunday reminded me of the great task we who believe have to be witnesses of our belief and work to bring others to that belief. The terrible steward in the parable who squandered his master’s treasure is us. We are not making the treasure of salvation grow instead we are hoarding it.
We have found a way to have a spiritual life and an active life in the world. While we are doing this we are totally ignoring the one true gift God has given us and that is salvation. God has not just invited us into his kingdom but he has made us worthy to be in his presence by the death of his son.
You must accept the fact it is up to all of us to build the kingdom of God; to give witness to God’s love, mercy and presence in the world. In short we must become living witnesses of a different way to live. It is then that others can see that we who believe do live our lives by the laws God has written on our hearts instead of the laws of society. We will influence others when we decide to embrace the gospel which says “as for me and my household we will follow the lord.”
Here it is right before us the true test of a believer – how faithful are we in doing the small things that show we have the law written on our hearts. We have grown up in a world that tells us it is ok to cut corners or the ends justify the means. We have no hesitation to steal small things from our employers or fudge expense accounts or cheat on our taxes. We have learned to compartmentalize our faith so we confine it to spiritual displays in church while our other self lives in the world. It is no wonder people are not coming to church; we are not giving them any reason to come because our faith has not changed how we live in the world.
This gospel today should have us questioning ourselves. Do we really believe and if so how are we living our faith each and every moment of our lives. What we believe should penetrate our hearts and should remind us how our failure in small things pollutes even the good we do.
The simple truth is we have not learned how to live as disciples or believers. We live just like everyone else in the world. It is no wonder attendance each Sunday is at a historical low level; we are not living our life any different than the rest of society. We lie, we cheat, we steal, we commit adultery, we fornicate, we gossip, we slander and we commit folly like the rest of the world (Mk. 4:21-22). These evil things come out of our hearts but God has promised to change our hearts so we do not do these things.
We should be living our lives in a way that allows others to know we are not just good people but instead we are Disciples of Christ. The rest of the world will never think going to church is worthwhile as long as our lives are no different than theirs. If we who are going to church cannot be recognized as having something that changed us why would anyone think Christ has anything to offer them?
What we need is the Holy Spirit to make us bold and powerful witnesses of God transforming power. It is then and only then will you and I be able to preach the gospel message at all times and in all circumstances. It is then and only then that we can move others to desire the one thing in life worth living for and that is the life knowing God is present to us at all times and in all circumstances.