Against spiritual couch potatoes

| Father Paul Jarvis | September 12, 2017 | 0 Comments
Couch Potato

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“Just do it!”

Most everyone recognizes this Nike ad.

It should be a slogan for Christianity.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we earn our way to heaven, much as a child earns his or her way to Disneyland. I am, however, suggesting that faithful disciples of Christ must “do it” in order to “get it.” You know, the “ah-ha” type.

I’ve seen agnostics and atheists transform in the doing of work with the poor in Mother Teresa’s ashram in Kathmandu — folks going from disbelief and indifference to profound faith. I’ve also seen believers deepen their faith in the doing of Christianity.

In other words, in doing more than simply “going to church” — as important as such prayer within an assembly is.

In actually “being Church.”

Going to church without doing Christianity outside of the church structure is like a person who signs up at a physical fitness center, only to sit on the side of the workout room and watching others work out, paying no attention at all to the fitness coach’s instructions.

And when these couch potatoes head for home after the non-workout, they continue to not do “the program” the rest of the week. The fitness coach’s lessons are quickly forgotten in the gym’s parking lot.

The above analogy may sound a tad creepy. But the approach is most definitely ineffective. As is its spiritual counterpart.

We not only need to spend time in getting off the roller-coaster of life to pray and/or meditate by ourselves as well as with others.

We need to act. That’s what Jesus was talking about throughout our four Gospels: How we are to be with each other and how we are to act in life.

Our brothers and sisters in other Christian traditions are right in asserting that such action, such relating should indeed flow from profound faith in Jesus and his teachings. But it’s also true that action can lead to faith — and, subsequently, to even greater levels of faith. At least, that’s been my experience over the past half century.

I’d like to direct you to an example of how being active leads to greater faith, or perhaps even faith itself.

Several years back, the Knights of Columbus at St. Joseph’s parish in Lino Lakes took on the seemingly impossible task of repairing a long mothballed country chapel, just in front of its modern 90s church. It started with one or two Knights spending a weekday cleaning out decades of junk.

Like Tom Sawyer, they tantalized passersby by opening the long-closed, mysterious relic for joggers and walkers to see. People poked their heads in and were invited in to look around. One passerby even asked if he could help, even though he wasn’t Catholic. An affirmative answer boomed back, and he and other passersby would eventually spend a lot of time and energy in renovating that quaint country (now suburban) chapel.

The Knights of Columbus group not only grew in membership. It, more importantly, grew in active membership. Inactive Catholics became active. One person actually converted to the faith — not from simply doing the work, but in hanging out with people of “walk the walk” faith.

Now their council is one of the more active Knights councils and assemblies in the state. That’s because many people “got it” by “just doing it.”

There’s a lesson here for every parish, Knights council and church ministry. Yep, some meetings are necessary. But most people I know enjoy the fellowship and sense of achievement through activity. People just have to be active with others in the building up of God’s kingdom here on earth. Or they just slump back into spiritual couch potato-ism and eventually stop practicing the faith. Or even believing.

At St. Bridget’s parish community in Minneapolis’ Northside — “the little parish that could” — I’ve noticed that the more parishioners get engaged with their parish and its ministries, the more they get out of it. And the more they “get it.”

Christianity: Just do it!

Father Jarvis is senior associate pastor of St. Bridget in north Minneapolis.

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Category: The Local Church