Our struggle to renew the nation, our struggle to transform the culture, and our struggle to change the world, must begin with our own very personal response to God’s gracious invitation to conversion.
When we face daily frustrations, we need to recall that we have the power to triumph over sin because we have Christ’s grace within us. We have the capacity to be victorious, but we must renew the struggle every day with our Lord and Savior, the new Adam, Jesus Christ. – Cardinal Wuerl, Seek First the Kingdom: Challenging the Culture by Living Our Faith
We talk a lot about the culture and how bad it is. Sometimes we seem to enjoy wallowing in it, or at least get trapped into thinking that the whining is somehow productive.
Do not be provoked by evildoers;
do not envy those who do wrong.
Like grass they wither quickly;
like green plants they wilt away.
Trust in the LORD and do good
that you may dwell in the land and live secure.
Find your delight in the LORD
who will give you your heart’s desire.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will act
And make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
your justice like noonday.
Be still before the LORD;
wait for him.
Do not be provoked by the prosperous,
nor by malicious schemers.
Refrain from anger; abandon wrath;
do not be provoked; it brings only harm.
We often seem to forget that Jesus gave us an instruction manual for changing the world and we have a job to do!
You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. – Matthew 5:13-16
What does this mean to you? To me it is a very powerful and demanding challenge that we are called to evangelize the culture and, as a whole, the problems present in the culture are indicative of a failure to accomplish our calling. That might seem a little harsh, but let’s think about what this might mean. I truly believe that if every Christian in our country truly treated everyone they encountered as a child of God (or even tried to do so) that we would turn the entire culture upside down. That’s a challenging idea, but also a hopeful one because each of us really can make a big difference, by the grace of God.
True holiness does not mean a flight from the world; rather, it lies in the effort to incarnate the Gospel in everyday life, in the family, at school and at work, and in social and political involvement. – St. John Paul the Great
Engaging the Culture
Engaging the culture is a two-way street. We affect and are affected by the culture. We shouldn’t just set up our own separate world and let the culture be what it is.
It is important for us to try to live Christianity and to think as Christians in such a way that it incorporates what is good and right about modernity – and at the same time separates and distinguishes itself from what is becoming a counter-religion. – Pope Benedict XVI, Light of the World
This is why I have tried to include such a wide variety of sources for the sub-pages in each chapter: Quotes, Praying It, Basking In It, Digging Deeper and Making It Real. I also wanted the ideas presented here to be broader than my own personality and experience.
There is nothing colder than a Christian who does not seek to save others.
You cannot plead poverty here; the widow putting in her two small coins will be your accuser. Peter said, Silver and gold I have not. Paul was so poor that he was often hungry and went without necessary food.
You cannot plead humble birth, for they were humbly born, of humble stock. You cannot offer the excuse of lack of education, for they were uneducated. You cannot plead ill-health, for Timothy also had poor health, with frequent illnesses.
Each one can help his neighbor, if only he is willing to do what is in his power. Look at the trees that do not bear fruit: have you not noticed how strong and fine they are, upstanding, smooth, and tall? If we had a garden, we would much prefer trees with fruit—pomegranates and olives—to trees that are for pleasure, not for utility, and any utility these have is small.
Such are those men who think only of their own concerns. In fact, they are even worse: the trees are at least useful for building or for protection, whereas the selfish are fit only for punishment. Such were those foolish virgins who were chaste, comely, and self-controlled, but did nothing for anyone. So they are consumed in the fire. Such are those men who refuse to give Christ food.
Notice that none of them is accused of personal sins. They are not accused of committing fornication or perjury or any such sin at all: only of not helping anybody else. The man who buried the talent was like this. His life was blameless, but he was of no service to others.
How can such a person be a Christian? Tell me, if yeast did not make the whole mass like itself, is it really yeast? Again, if perfume failed to pervade all around it with its fragrance, would we call it perfume?
Do not say, “It is impossible for me to influence others.” If you are a Christian, it is impossible for this not to happen. Things found in nature cannot be denied; so it is here, for it is a question of the nature of a Christian.
Do not insult God. If you say that the sun cannot shine, you have insulted Him. If you say that a Christian cannot help others, you have insulted God and called Him a liar. It is easier for the sun not to give warmth or shine than for the Christian not to shed his light. It is easier for light to be darkness than for this to happen.
Do not say then that it is impossible. The opposite is impossible. Do not insult God. If we have put our affairs in order, these things will certainly come to be and will follow as a natural consequence. The light of a Christian cannot escape notice. So bright a lamp cannot be hidden. – from a homily on the Acts of the Apostles by Saint John Chrysostom (347-407), from the Liturgy of the Hours