The Other Side of Common Sense

Catholic Church, Holy Father, Pope Francis

Normally, we see common sense as a good thing, as a sign of good judgment and balanced reason. Normally, that is the case. It’s not the case, however, when we’re talking about the Church.

Pope Francis spoke about this in his homily this morning at St. Martha House, explaining that depending on common sense can prohibit us from following Jesus as we should. Today’s Gospel (Jn 6:60-69) shows the disciples of Jesus stepping away because his teaching is too hard to accept. It will cost them too much, and their common sense tells them to step away from him. Listening to Jesus, smiling and nodding along to what he had to say is one thing: having to internalize, embody, and live it is another. Those disciples admired Jesus, but they did not want to risk following him.

Aren’t we all like that in one way or another? We can admire our Lord and his teachings to the nth degree, but when it comes time to step forward and act according to those teachings, we step back instead. It’s just too risky. We don’t want to put ourselves out for the beliefs, the discipleship, or the mission because it requires more than we’re willing to give. Common sense tells us that it’s better to remain in our comfort zone rather than challenge ourselves to walk in the footsteps of the Master.

Pope Francis warns that this kind of common sense leads to lukewarmness about our faith, the Church, our community, our mission. Eventually, we become the lukewarm Christians the angel warned of in the Book of Revelation, “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I [Jesus] will spit you out of My mouth.” About such Christians, the Holy Father said that they, “are not united in the Church, they do not walk in God’s presence, they don’t have the security of the Holy Spirit, they do not make up the Church.”

Perhaps we think we’re not as bad off as those Christians, but we may already be taking steps in that direction when we become slack in our prayer life, ease up on the demands of our vocation, or  minimize our ideals. Common sense tells us that it’s just too taxing on us. so let it slip. That’s the point at which the “hot” begins to cool, to use the image from Revelation. What’s worse, that cooling effect can become contagious to others. If we’re not willing to take the risk, why should they?

Pope Francis ended his homily with a prayer, which I’d like to share with you, because it has really touched my heart, and I think it will touch yours, too.

“Let us pray for the Church, [that it] will continue to grow, unite, to walk in the fear of God and with the security of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord deliver us from the temptation of that ‘common sense’, and in inverted commas, the temptation to whisper against Jesus, because it is too demanding, and the temptation from scandal. So be it.”

One Comment

  1. I often tell people pragmatism kills faith. This applies to Catholics that feel common sense tells them to go against the Church when it comes to artificial contraception, married or women priests, fasting an hour before communion, confession at least once a year, and on and on……Thanks for the article.

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