About this we have much to say, and it is difficult to explain, for you have become sluggish in hearing. Although you should be teachers by this time, you need to have someone teach you again the basic elements of the utterances of God. You need milk, [and] not solid food. Everyone who lives on milk lacks experience of the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties are trained by practice to discern good and evil – Hebrews 5:11-14
The purpose of this blog and the posts that have been written to date are intended to develop and conceptualize a form of renewal that I believe is needed today. I have attempted to interweave this in previous posts and perhaps by Divine Providence, I stumbled upon this passage while going through the Letter to the Hebrews. It sufficiently sums up what I have been writing about for the past few months.
Now, two things I believe: renewal cannot be limited to a “silver-bullet” ministry and it cannot be left only to catechesis. We have seen that catechesis alone does not seem to produce the saints we would hope to produce and in lieu of that, we have tried to develop some church ministries that will try and get people to be disciples. These ministries die out as quickly as they get started. It is amazing to see that those that have had some solid catechesis are also the same individuals who are very lukewarm and sluggish in their faith. It is clear that acquired knowledge is simply not enough. Without a lively faith, all the acquired knowledge will be of little use, as we see with some very educated, modern theologians.
While I firmly believe that catechesis is important, this needs to be supplemented with experience and practice. Not only is this expected of students but also the teacher as well. This, as we should know, cannot be forced upon an individual. We cannot force someone to have faith, to believe and make them live out the doctrines of the faith. Catechesis is only fruitful when the one we are dealing with is similar to the good soil that is ready to receive the Word. We can see in the passage above that the writer of the letter expected that the individuals that were being taught should have been teachers by this time but they were not. They need to be re-taught the basic elements. He symbolizes their progress as a child that needs milk. It is of little use to give solid food because this will be of no benefit for the child and perhaps will do harm to the child’s development.
Let’s think through these series of questions: What happens when your teachers themselves are not eating the solid food? What if the teacher and the student are not only not eating solid food but are also drinking rotten milk? If our teachers are not eating the solid food, how will they be able themselves to discern good and evil? If they are not able to discern good and evil, how are they able to feed the children anything good if they themselves do not know what good food is? An evident example of this in our time is the excitement and zeal to attain contemplation without having a firm understanding of what contemplation is. What happens as a result? People hungering for meat end up latching onto something false and are unwilling to let go of the rotten meat they have obtained. They lack experience for they should instead be nourished by milk. Why are they unwilling to let go of this rotten meat? Why would they for they cannot discern good and evil!
I believe the answer for us today lies in the above passage from Hebrews. It is so fitting for our time and yet, this does not seem to be the focus whatsoever. I know that there are isolated pockets of parishes perhaps doing this, but this really needs to be more than an isolated thing. Most renewal now is based on anything but going back to the basics such as death, judgment, heaven, hell, mortification, penance, sin, the practicing of virtues, reverence for God, the Blessed Mother, admonishment and so forth. Going into most Catholic Churches these days, one would thing that sin and hell are no more and that it doesn’t matter what Christian group you are part of! Most renewal today is driven on bringing people into a Catholic community that is poorly formed spiritually. Why are we doing this? Seems like madness. I find this parallels perfectly with what Jesus states to the pharisees:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves – Matthew 23:15
It makes very little sense to go out into the world to bring folks in when we ourselves are in a ruinous state! It should not surprise anyone why this type of renewal effort is more appealing: the alternative is to work hard and be a saint! Now, I understand the appeal of the early Church, the idea of St. Paul going around the world bringing souls to the Church, huge growth, excitement, etc. One thing people tend to forget is that the apostles and most of the early disciples, were likely really advanced in the spiritual life! St. Stephen was swiftly stoned but what level of sainthood he must have possessed in this life to warrant such an early death! The apostles were no less Christ like themselves. What did they do? They admonished the failings of their fellow Christians, dealt with heretics and false prophets, and truly lived a life that imitates Christ. This is why they were so effective because people saw Christ in them! If we want that same type of renewal today, we need to truly be like them and live according to the teachings of the gospel and the Church. They were definitely not these modern, pseudo-Christ like people that we see today, who likely possess very little resemblance to the early Church apostles and Christ Himself!
Food for thought. I feel this is passage is really shining the light on the whole vision of United Body. There is nothing fancy here, it really is just living out the entirety of the teachings of Christ. People tend to forget that when we look at the early Church, we have to see it in full vision. Yes, they were evangelizing and living in Christians communities, but the early church was composed of spiritually strong champions who mortified their desires, conquered mortal and venial sin, and excelled in heroic virtue. We need that today! Such individuals like these will aid the growth of the weaker Christians and we will strengthen the body once again.
All this is only by the grace of Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit rise up true teachers to once again give the flock milk and strengthen them to receive meat to discern good and evil in the world. We need this more then ever.
Blessed Mother, pray for us!