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The Christian life: more than Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly
The search for God is deeply anchored in the heart of every human being. Yet most people live as though the existence of God were irrelevant to everyday life.
Because we live in a world full of distractions, we become engrossed in trivial pursuits and abandon the more important issues.
Entertainment by the media makes a major contribution towards the creation of an attitude which devalues and cheapens even what is sacred.
Almost incessantly, in our comedy shows, deep concerns are made to appear unimportant and thus ideas become fragile. Through satire, God, the Church, life, death, love, sex, concepts, ideas, issues are reduced to the trivial.
Comedians liberally sprinkle their talk with unacceptable words. Encouraged by the laughter, they continue with increasing vigour, constantly filling in the blanks with those words.
Such inane repetition only exhibits the poverty of their vocabulary and reveals the absence of wit.
Vulgarity is not clever, yet by accepting such behaviour we become insensitive and develop a culture which lacks nobility and refinement.
In the name of humour, concepts that are of fundamental importance are lowered to the level of a joke, the essential becomes non-essential. We acquire a habit of mind which diminishes great matters.
We get too busy caught up in meaningless activities: twittering, texting, Facebook, sending selfies. The absorption with the emef is almost an obsession.
Time spent in futile pursuits, on the banal, shapes our minds. Filled with hollow thoughts, we have no time to process ideas at a deeper level.
We lose the capacity or even the desire to think about the big questions, the questions that matter most, those questions which strike at the very core of our being.
Our dignity as persons created in the image of God requires us to be less absorbed with self, more open to deeper thoughts.
Because we live in a throwaway society, we learn to declutter, to discard what is deemed as unnecessary. This creates a habit of mind in which we have little regard for anything of value. Such an attitude too often degenerates into carelessness.
Carelessness in thought is reflected by carelessness in language. How often do we hear the "Oh, my God!" as a meaningless exclamation, in response to some remark. Even good Catholic people who have no intention of offending God do this unthinkingly.
In the Old Testament, the Jews would only use consonants to express the name of God, aware that it is a sacred name.
Unless the name of God is used as an emotional appeal, as an invocation or a prayer, it is preferable to avoid using it unnecessarily. Otherwise, we are holding cheap what is holy, what is sacred.
Let us reject the world of trivial pursuit! The new evangelisation calls us to restore, that is with values which are not new but go back to the time of Christ and even as far back as the Old Testament.
The new evangelisation calls us to permeate our society with the values of the Gospel.
Since we are not politicians or prominent media figures, the ordinary person can only do this in the sphere in which they live.
By restoring Catholic language to our culture, we can contribute powerfully to this new way of spreading the Gospel.
St John Paul II said that the world had forgotten the concept of sin. The idea of sin can easily be slipped into a conversation about the latest scandal in the media.
Greed, the desire for money, power, sexual gratification need to be called sin. We can point out that such actions are an offence against God and destructive of society.
Pope Francis I is adept at one-liners, telling us in plain language that the devil is real, that there is a hell.
We talk of the environment but the Pope calls it "creation", indirectly reminding us of the Creator. Many of his sayings are easy to reproduce.
The apostolate of the cup of coffee offers us many openings. It is easy to deflect a conversation away from idle gossip, into deeper matters, perhaps making a reference to God.
If someone tells us their troubles, we ought always ro offer to pray for them. Even a person who professes to be a non-believer is usually grateful when you offer this.
Anyway, it is at least introducing the name of God and perhaps the thought of God in their mind.
It is important not to act as if we were holier than others; but there is nothing to prevent us from mentioning to a Catholic friend that we have gone to confession since it may help lead to a discussion about reconciliation and the need for this sacrament.
If someone complains about being in pain, let us offer sympathy, offer to pray and suggest that they can "offer it up".
We might say that penance here on earth helps us to acquire merit or lessens our time in Purgatory.
When we leave someone, what about replacing the "have a good day" with "God bless" as a way of introducing the idea of God in our daily lives.
We may live our daily life with an awareness of its infinite dimension. As children of a loving Father who destines us to share in his kingdom, we must consciously work towards establishing this kingdom here on earth.
We are the salt of the earth. Our daily encounters must be sprinkled with the salt which will flavour our conversations and elevate them with the savour of spirituality.
Audrey English is a Sydney Catholic writer.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 27 No 8 (September 2014), p. 20
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