Who are the lost sheep?

Who are the lost sheep? April 8, 2017

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ALost_sheep_on_farm_track._-_geograph.org.uk_-_368111.jpg; Johnny Durnan [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Because, you know, Jesus compared himself to a shepherd, leaving the 99 to search for the lost sheep.

After my prior post, reacting to Cupich announcing more anti-violence and anti-poverty efforts by the archdiocese, I was visualizing Cupich defenders saying that he was going after the lost sheep, the prodigal son, as Jesus did, and that I had the Bad Attitude of the older son, whining that he wasn’t getting enough attention.

But sometimes it feels like the reverse is true.

I read somewhere that the Archdiocese of Chicago is 44% Hispanic.

And you’ve likely read, as I have, descriptions of the Hispanic community as faithfully Catholic.  It seems like every report of illegal immigrants fearful of being deported depicts them as model community members, volunteers and regular attendees at their parish.

They may be poor, many of them may “not have their papers in order,” as the euphemism goes, they may have trouble keeping their children out of trouble, they may live in neighborhoods with high crime rates, and they may be short on money to put in the collection plate, but they are, we’re told, devout and faithful Catholics.

Which means that they aren’t the lost sheep.

Who are the lost sheep?

Yes, of course, the perpetrators of that crime, the gangbangers.

But that’s a very narrow understanding of lost sheep-ness.

And, really, there’s a lot of materialism implicit in the notion that only among the poor are there lost sheep – it implies that material prosperity is all that anyone really needs, so we just have to boost the prosperity of the poor, and all will be well.

But from the perspective of a bishop, all can hardly be “well” if, among those with material prosperity, there is spiritual poverty — assuming that said bishop cares about the Gospel.

If a social services organization shuts down because none of the people in its service area need any social services any longer, that’s great.  But a church is not a social services organization.

And remember that Jesus ministered to the poor and the rich as well, including Matthew the tax collector.

The suburbs have plenty of lost sheep.  We have people who have abandoned church either because of the recent scandals, or using that as an excuse, or for all the other reasons people stop attending church.  We have lots of people who never grew up with any kind of faith tradition at all.  We have people who are nominally Catholic, but prioritize their kids’ travel sports activities when mass is “inconvenient” or have become indifferent to attending mass without even seeking out excuses, or who may continue to attend mass at least every now and again but abandon the involvement in church activities that prior generations would have had, because they say, “our lives are too busy,” and who don’t enroll their children in religious education.

And, once again last night, at our monthly CFM group meeting, we talked about this, but without any idea what to do.  The parish leadership tries, but they haven’t figured out a magic bullet either.

So, yes, I’m in bad mood, and yes, I know that it’s more complex than that, and that statistics show that it’s the poor who are more often “losing their religion,” but it still p****** me off when Cupich seems to focus his time on politics, and, yes, poverty-alleviation issues, and shrugs off the spiritual needs of his flock with the assumption that that’ll take care of itself, or that it’s somehow other people’s job.


Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ALost_sheep_on_farm_track._-_geograph.org.uk_-_368111.jpg; Johnny Durnan [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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