Coming in Bright Week, the week after Pascha and before St. Thomas Sunday (also, now, Divine Mercy Sunday in the Roman Church, the celebration of a “modern” devotion), the Sunday upon which the Gospel reading (the heart of which is St. John 20:24-29) describes the appearance of the Risen Christ to “doubting Thomas,” Arturo writes of "God and the Light Bulb", bewailing the effects of modernity on religion, and especially on traditional Catholic Christianity. What occasions Arturo’s post is the “public apostasy” of another young man who had formerly professed the faith.
Now, I do not know this other young man, nor have I read his blog, so I will not comment on his situation directly (except to gently remind Arturo that he, too, was apparently something of an atheist for a while). However, in reading Arturo’s post, my reaction, after thinking of Anne Rice and other former atheists, such as Francis Collins, Patrick Glyn, Malcolm Muggeridge, and C.S. Lewis, was, in the words of our Lord, “It is easier for a camel [Aramaic: “rope”] to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” Even the most impoverished of us here in the West, and I include myself in that category, are “rich” by historical and global standards. A modern lifestyle is one of affluence. Given that, everything else being equal (which, as Arturo’s writing points out, is far from the case), modernity is, in and of itself, corrosive of religion. However, there is another kind of wealth which is only indirectly related to one’s socioeconomic status and which is even more corrosive of spirituality. That “wealth,” of course, can be described in many ways, but fundamentally, it is the opposite of the “poverty of spirit” of which our Lord speaks in the Gospel. It is this poverty of spirit, born of a radical realization of one’s limitations, weaknesses, shortcomings, and sins, which opens us to the encounter with the Risen Christ at the core of our being – in the heart. As one of the commenters on Arturo’s post points out, the main issue is whether or not Christ lives in me. The rest of it, worship style, etc., is simply a means to an end.
Now don’t get me wrong, y’all. I remain convinced that the Church is the privileged place, established by Christ Himself, in which this encounter is to take place. It is the exterior, social space given for the precise purpose of facilitating this interior, interpersonal communion. Ecclesiology as such is not the issue here. However, as so many discovered in the Roman Church in the years prior to Vatican II, one can go through all the motions and yet never meet the Resurrected Lord, at least not in the Holy of Holies of one’s heart. This phenomenon goes a long way toward explaining the rise of Charismatic Renewal in the Roman and other “mainstream” Western Churches. However, when that encounter, that “spiritual awakening”, has occurred, one does not easily, if at all, walk away, regardless of the external circumstances of one’s life.