Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Fight Against Minimalism

I'll start off by saying that this is not a lecture or me telling people how they should act.  It is not my place to do so.  This is a call for change.

We are in a fight against minimalism.  What is the least amount I can do to get by?  What are the least amount of credit hours I need to graduate?  What's the least amount of work I can do to get a promotion?  What's the least amount of exercise I can do to lose weight?  Nowhere is this more evident, in my opinion, than in the Church.  Matthew Kelly does an excellent job of talking about the issue in his book titled Rediscovering Catholicism.  My post here isn't an attempt to restate his points, but rather to share some real-life examples of what I see today. 

I've been guilty, and still am at times, of "minimalism" in my life.  I am trying to become closer to God and better understand my Faith like many of you, and I think that we all have opportunities to become better Christians.  As I grow in Faith, I have become more observant of behaviors around me that are bothersome.  One example comes from an experience I had just the other day. 

My daughter is preparing for her first Reconciliation this Friday, and the parents have had preparation meetings too with our parish priest.  He has done an excellent job of explaining the Biblical theological basis for the confession of sins (something I'll be glad to help anybody understand one on one if interested).  Last night we got a bit off topic discussing how traditions have changed, and one that came up in particular was "dress" at church.  To make a long story short, our priest shared, in so many words, that he doesn't like seeing people in jeans or their Colts' Jerseys on Sunday -- that it's a matter of respect.  Most people were interested in why he felt this way, understood his point, and even said that they, going forward, won't wear jeans.  In general, the mood was light and there were a few laughs, but the group in general listened and agreed.  However, there was one mother who said, "If I see a family in front of me all wearing their Colts' jerseys I just think 'how nice' and I'm just glad they are at Church."  This statement bothered me (and I think others) immediately, but it wasn't until a few minutes had passed that I figured out why.  I didn't respond directly but later shared that I feel that we are becoming minimalists when it comes to God and we owe Him more respect (If you dress up for a wedding or funeral, shouldn't you do the same when you enter the house of our Lord?).  What do I mean by all of this?

Well, first, I'm guilty.  I've worn jeans in the past -- usually with a nice shirt, but I've worn jeans.  Father's statement made me think though that it is not just about the jeans, but about the entire attitude.  Too many people are trying to find the "shortcut" to get to Heaven and to glorify God.  Why do I need to go to Confession if I ask for forgiveness?  I attend Church some Sundays, Christmas, and Easter so isn't that enough?  Why do I need to dress up -- isn't it enough that I just come?  I give to the weekly collection, how much more do I need to give to the poor?  Why is Mass taking so long -- can't they speed it up?  In so many words, we are asking the question, "what's the least I can do to get into Heaven?"  Isn't this selfish of us?  Of course it is. 

God gave us the world.  He is our Creator.  He gave us our lives here on Earth.  He sent His only Son to die on a cross so that our sins may be forgiven and we may have eternal life.  Why do we only want to give the least amount of ourselves possible?  It is about respect, honor, and love for THE ONE to whom we owe everything.  So, whether it comes to how we dress at Church or how much of our time we give to God, why not do just a little more?  Or, a lot more?  Why not wear dress slacks, a nice shirt, and maybe even throw on a tie every now and then?  Why not pray for 15 minutes a day instead of five?  Surely we can find 10 more minutes to keep the One company who loves us more than we can comprehend.  Why not attend a Bible study once a week or go to daily mass once during the week?  How about not going to Starbucks one day and dropping an extra $5 into the collection basket?  Or, picking up an extra case of can goods at the store and delivering them to the local food shelter?  We owe our Lord more than we owe anybody else.

Many people will think I'm just being silly, but I want to be clear  -- this is not just about how somebody dresses for church.  That is just one example of minimalism and certainly does not apply to everyone, but there are many others. This is about something that is pervasive throughout our society and culture, and our relationship with God and the Church is suffering because of it.  The solution starts with all of us through living by example, teaching our kids differently, and then maybe, just maybe, others will follow.  I know, personally, I have a long way to go.  The discussion that occurred with all the parents made me reflect on my own life, where I was, where I am today, and where I want to go.  I know I'm not going to get there by doing as little as possible to show my respect, honor, and love for the Lord.  Though only God knows for certain, I would be willing to bet that Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is in Heaven, and she certainly didn't get there by doing just the minimum.

So, during this Advent Season, slow down, make time for the Lord, and pray. . . just a bit more.

God Bless you all. 

Disclaimer:  I think dress code at Church is probably the least of the problems, but serves as an example.  If you are going to wear jeans, then just do so with a nice shirt, shoes, and actually take a shower in the morning.  :-) 

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