The opening keynote of the World Meeting of Families was given by Bishop Robert Barron, newly-minted Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. As usual, he did not disappoint.
Bishop Barron invited all those assembled in a cavernous convention center, and all listening around the world, to joyfully claim our identity as persons bearing the mark of the great King who is Christ.
He spoke eloquently about the reality that the great project and dream of the Second Vatican Council has still not been realized. The Council had hoped to usher in a radical expansion of the Church’s mission, creating a nation of priests to sanctify every corner of the world. By priests we mean that of the baptized- a whole Catholic army of believers who are fully alive with the light of faith.
Instead we have today an intense and ongoing preoccupation with trying to change the Church’s teachings, rather than seeking to live them out. We have, as Bishop Barron pointed out, around three-quarters of Catholics not going to Mass on a Sunday and drifting along in life looking no different than the rest of the population around us. In short, we have a real shortage of priests. Not just the ordained kind, but more importantly, of the baptized kind. We lack courage, zeal, enthusiasm, and conviction.
And what a shame. Because we have been stamped with the mark of Christ firmly on each of us, and we have the ability and privilege to participate in all of his priestly power. Bishop Barron explained that when Christ promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church, he meant that we, in the Lord’s name, can smash through all the forces of darkness and defeat them.
The culture needs the Church. The world needs Christ. And we are letting the world down by not taking our friendship with the Lord seriously. We are to worship God alone and not modern convenience. We are to be conformed to the teachings of the faith because they bring true freedom and joy; they are not burdens to toss off. We are to shower with mercy all those who want to change, and we are never to waver from the high standards of the Gospel.
Bishop Barron spoke of King David, and how he fell into so much trouble in the Spring of the year, when all the other kings went out on campaigns to conquer. He stayed home, and got caught up himself: his palace, his leisure, his possessions, his own achievements. Had he gone out on campaign to conquer for the Lord, he would not have fallen into grave sin, and so much of what he had built would not have fallen into ruin.
The Church always runs the risk of growing lazy, and falling into ruin. And so, the Church has to go out on campaign again, confident in Christ. Confident in our teachings, especially those on marriage and family life. We bear the image of the great King, and we bear it not for our own sake, but for the sake of the whole world who needs to meet Him and encounter Him in us.