MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on the “Nones”. What does this have to do with canaries? What does it have to do with you? Listen to this podcast of his reflection on the readings for the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time to find out. Please readMatthew 5:13-17. #GreatPreaching #Prayer #Sermons #Homilyhelper #Canary #Nones #Change #Matthew #Messiah
For MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 2/9/2014 The 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 5:13-16.
According to a Pew Research Center Study from 2012, nearly 32% of those 18-29 at the time had no religious preference and 88% of them were not looking. They are part of what they call a “rising” population of people referred to as the “nones”, pronounced like those in the religious order for women, “nuns”, but referring to the response of these folks on the survey when they were asked, “what is your religious preference?”
My question to us Christians is “how many canaries must we send into the coal mine?”
In doing ministry in a college setting, we often look at the demographical data of generations that are coming along so that we can know how to engage a generation to bring them along to a Christian life. When you look at the data for the Nones Generation, also known as the “millenials”, they are a bunch that cannot tolerate hypocrisy. So, if you approach them, it is better to tell them the truth on an issue and be real, than it is to tell them what they want to hear. Their rejection of religion is because we live in a society that is cynical. Look around you, movies don’t always have a happy ending anymore. Music is about the basest and crassest things. Artwork of today has absolutely nothing to do with order, instead it is more about mayhem and the subjectivity of perspective.
The ministry office uses all of the latest social media to stay in the streams in which the Millenials, the “Nones”, swim. We have a facebook page, we tweet on Twitter, we have an Instagram account, a Vimeo page, a YouTube Channel, we text, we only use email as a backup and we are constantly trying to keep up with the changing technology. Yet, we have found that these are not the most effective way to get a None to come to an event. The best way, is to invite them face to face. The best way is to show a genuine interest in them. Our staff has to be composed of people who want to know how others are doing. It is key because the people to whom we minister, they have no use for someone who is not genuine and tries to live their faith, all of their faith. It turns out, the Millenials, the Nones, are not the only ones turned off by people not being the real deal.
Isaiah’s passage could be taken, at first blush, as simply a request by God for us to do right by those in need and he will bless us. It looks like that if we read only the passage assigned for this Sunday. Yet, this passage from Isaiah is about much more than just receiving benefits for being good. In the third verse of this passage, the people ask the Lord, “Why will you not look at our fasting?” or “Why won’t you accept our fasting?” The answer the Lord gives is this: “When you fast, seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers…” The Lord is saying that he will not accept the fast of the Israelites because they are hypocrites.
This is key. We often try to have a spirituality that is focused in one area. We are either devotionally holy and treat others badly, or we want to care for the poor and neglect our prayer life. This is a double life. The goal of the Christian life, as I have said before, is for us to have our faith touch every aspect of our life. It is not enough for God when we give in one area and are sinful in another. It is not enough, in this case, for us to fast and pray, yet treat those around us badly. One does not excuse or give license for bad behavior in any area of our lives.
When we are duplicitous with ourselves, we are not a good witness. In fact, we discredit our entire witness to the goodness of God when we lose a seamless garment of service and devotion. Salt without its ability to spice food and preserve food is useless. If a light doesn’t shine, it is useless. It is the same as what Paul was saying to the Church at Corinth: he came in a demonstration of Spirit and power, not with talk, talk, talk.
An article in the December Issue of the Cairn College Magazine says it best about Nones and their experience of religion, “Their perception of religious experience focuses upon personal, i.e., individualized, “authentic” experiences.” If we are not hypocrites, or we are trying not to be hypocrites, we can be that individual experience. These young people distrust the institution because it is the institution of the child sex abuse scandal. We may want to throw up our hands or say that others are being unfair in their portrayal of the way we handled things, but only we can reverse this trend of the distrust in our institution called the Church. We can do it by our authentic witness. We can do it by our saltiness. We can do it by letting our light shine.
How do we do become an authentic witness? We do so by not focusing on our own spirituality so much. We do it by balancing our Mass attendance, daily prayer life and our reading of Scripture with our service to the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the outcast. We are no longer in a day and age when people will assume that we do what we do because we love Christ, either. We must balance our service with words. There may have been a day and age when the maxim of Saint Francis was true, “Preach the Gospel at all times, sometimes use words.” That day is not now. We must always do both.
When was the last time you went and served the poor? When was the last time you did a good deed with someone else? When did you invite a young person to come with you when you did your service? When was the last time you freely offered a prayer when others were around? It is no longer enough to assume that people know about your faith and why you do what you do. It is no longer enough for you to go to Mass without being involved in service or vice versa. They MUST go together. We must be humble but not embarrassed about living the faith.
So, what is the solution to the Pew Study that said that people are not believing in religion anymore? You are. Your authentic living out your faith with actions and words is the solution to the religious tepidness of the “Nones”. What is your plan? What are you going to do to chip away at this problem? How many more canaries are going to have to fly into the coal mine and not return? Amen? Amen.
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