I bet some of you here remember those days when this church was packed full every Sunday. Within one generation the number of people regularly attending Mass has more than halved. It’s not been happening only within the Catholic Church; some Christian denominations are even in bigger trouble. Some churches have been desolated because of the dramatic decrease of local population in remote spots. Years ago in the Glenlivet area there were three separate parishes, vibrant and flourishing, with devout congregations. Nowadays the only Sunday Mass in Glenlivet gathers thirty-odd people; the churches are surrounded by fields and woods with only a few households in sight. Beautifully decorated but empty they are signs of their past glory.
‘Brothers, our time is growing short. […] I say this because the world as we know it is passing away’. For our predecessors, the world they lived in seemed to be steady and unchangeable; changes took a long time, sometimes over whole generations. Excepting wars or enormous natural disasters, the future was reasonably predictable. The dramatic development of science and of industry sped up the world. It’s especially noticeable regarding people’s preferred means of communication: people in their fifties prefer phone calls; in their forties, emails; the younger generation uses Facebook, Twitter, texts and other ways that we cannot even imagine. As far as the young are concerned, their parents and Stone Age people are practically the same. They don’t admit their perceptions openly, though, as they still need your financial support and to be able to borrow the car.
‘The world as we know it is passing away’. It seems that part of this passing and disappearing world is religion. It’s hard to resist the impression that our congregations consist mostly of people of a certain, well-mature, age. The parish seems to be an unattractive place with a deadly boring DJ in an old-fashioned outfit, having little to offer. I’ll take a risk to say that we need to adopt a more modern approach to our faith. The more we try to keep our world unchanged, the stranger it becomes to next generations.
In today’s gospel four mature men, working in the fishing industry, suddenly abandoned their well-known world to follow a man of their age or a bit older, a man vaguely known to them. As John the Baptist’s disciples they had met him before at the river Jordan. They left behind a society of old traditions and conventions to build a community of equal brotherhood. Their spiritual offer was so fascinating that it attracted hundreds and thousands of followers. Its influence has shaped our world.
I believe that Christianity hasn’t lost its attractiveness. I believe that it hasn’t become old-fashioned. Christianity just needs ordinary people who, in their everyday lives, are honestly and truly living out their faith. It demands from each one of us that we follow Jesus not in words but in deeds.