The cure for alienation

The cure for alienation

The cure to the dread disease of alienation has already been discovered. It is at hand, all we have to do is apply it. At the heart of each religion is the meaning and secret of life. It is with a leap of faith that one is transformed from an alien marching into nothingness into a human being starting on a journey into becoming a unique person. For Christians this journey starts with the good news.

It is the message of life “I come to bring you life and to bring it more abundantly”. Faith in Jesus transforms us from being an alien to become a son and daughter of God. The only reason for our Church is to be the deposit of this faith but even more to spread this cure of faith to every generation till the end of time.

The real and only question for the Church and each believer is “how does one “give” the faith to another? Is it possible to give faith to another? What attracts the alien to accept the “cure”? How does one present the saving message? Some insist that the whole message must be presented to the other. The alien must embrace faith, hope and charity, dogmas, moral teachings, tradition etc. All in one big swallow.

Will the alien allow one to enter with all of the baggage or is a step by step method more likely to move the alien to accept the “message”? When one enters the home or sacred space of a new friend, he is invited into the front room and as friendship develops he is introduced to the whole home. Does not friendship start somewhere and develops and becomes?

The Church has to embrace the virtue of humility. We must admit that we do not know how to bring the faith to the people who inhabit our modern technological and alienated world. How does one bring the faith to our modern universal youth culture? Many think that the solution is to call youth out of the world into a world of “spiritual” matters. This process does not cure alienation rather it confirms it by bringing them into an alienating spirit.

Church strategies are a dime a dozen. Many insist that the first knock on the door of the unbeliever is social justice. Others insist that the environmental is the issue that will “grab” youth. Youth are still interested and are moved by fair play. Others insist on a more traditional method that of insisting on the moral law. Youth are hungry for the guidelines in the journey of life. Still others insist that the dogmas of the Church must be taught to youth. This is supposed to develop a “religious” culture. Others say that the modern liturgy will do it all. Others think that it is the energy of love that is the way to go. Most of these strategies start with the youth who are still in the pews of our Churches. What must concern us is how many who still come to Church are not aliens, in fact, spiritual aliens.

Before a doctor seeks a cure for the malady, he proceeds with a full examination of the patient. Do we study the alien? Do we spend time with the alien? Do we speak the language of the alien? How much time did the Jesuit missionaries spend listening to and learning the language of the huron so as to present the faith to them. How much time must the farmer work the land before planting the seed.

There is too much “cheap” grace around that is supposed to cure alienation. All one has to do is blow on the embers of faith and suddenly the fire of faith will flame up. One can blow till one is blue in the face, preach till one is hoarse yet the door of alienation will not open. All the huffing and puffing of the modern tv evangelists may aid some to sustain the faith yet the plague of alienation will continue to claim the best and finest of our youth. The coming decade of the 90’s will see a marriage between global television and the evangelists.

Even more the coming millennium will see the Word being shot 33000 miles into space and rain down on people in every country of the globe. I am afraid that alienated people are very much like ducks and will shake the words away before they have a chance to grow.

The reality is that the Word must take on flesh. It is the incarnated Word that will change the alien into a witness. The witness must first of all live a new life, and like all witnesses they can only speak when they are invited to speak. The alien has been fooled too long by words, what he is looking for is the silence of the incarnated message. What makes John tick? Why is he different than most. Incarnation precedes the message, in fact, it is vehicle of the message. It is the incarnated message that attracts others.

The task of the Churches in this post-industrial world is to “leave the one and go out to meet God working in the ninety-nine”. This means turning the one into a witness to reach out to the 99. It means using the very scarce resources of the Churches to cross “the Red Sea” and move into the unknown of the promised land.

The modern Church is called to live the words “seek and you shall find” -“knock and it will be opened.” We are all called to go forth to embrace and “cure” the alien. Unfortunately, too many believers think that the alien must come to the Church as we have the truth. We have the truth in the measure that we sally forth to bring it to the other. Faith, hope and charity are not packaged goods.

We do not possess truth rather it possesses us. We do not possess love rather it possesses us.

How can we possess God, when God is always ahead of his people urging us to follow him/her into the unknown accomplishing creation. “by day in the form of a cloud and at night in the form of a fire. “It is the unknown that is the earth of our faith. It is only the believer that can embrace or be embraced by the unknown. With this embrace of the unknown one is ready to be embraced by the present and even more by the past. For the alien who has no future so then he has no present or past. He is totally rootless so is unable to flower and become oneself.

Without faith, it is normal to fear the unknown. This fear develops a process of giving a name to the unknown, the word game starts with secularism, materialism, socialism, communism, fundamentalism, consumerism, capitalism, etc. Etc. How fearful are we of the unknown that we think that the mere naming will exorcise the unknown.

The unknown, the desert is the normal “place” of the believer. The roots of the faith will bloom in the arid sand of the deserts of our world. The present known is but the womb of the unknown. All the very real pain, anguish and suffering of alienation are but the labour pains of giving birth to the unknown.

The real believer is rooted in time. The past is secure. The present is very real and the future will bear even more fruit.

Romeo Maione
July 1983.


Edvard Munch, The Scream