A moment to reflect

Earlier this week an old news story from 2006 resurfaced through Twitter and people have been chattering about it ever since. The story described Paris syndrome, a condition which affects a small number of Japanese visitors to the French capital every year. Apparently, those afflicted are mainly women. With the rigorous politeness which arises from their culture, they are often shocked at the rudeness they encounter in this supposedly romantic city. Furthermore, that same politeness forbids them from expressing their disappointment that the city fails to meet their high expectations. The disappointment is turned in on themselves, the holiday is ruined, and they are flown back home to recover. In a Guardian article on the story, people were invited to suggest what other cities they thought might invoke such a syndrome. So far over 200 have taken up the challenge here.

I have not read the list yet, and I am sure people have stuck to the brief. However, what if somebody suggested that there should be a church syndrome, where this herald of God’s new kingdom on earth fails to live up to its reputation? Would that be possible at all, maybe? Later this morning I shall put heart, soul and mind into preparing a sermon for Pentecost day on Sunday. Traditionally it is a day to celebrate the birth of the church as the recipient of God’s Holy Spirit for worldwide mission. On that first Pentecost Day such high hopes were born aloft as ordinary people received God’s extraordinary gift and began to declare his Gospel.

Wherever the church fails to live up to those expectations, church syndrome is born , and people return back disappointed whence they came. We don’t call it church syndrome, of course, we call it social change or a spiritual desertor something similiar. The net result, however, is the same. I am reminded of the story which recounts that Pope Innocent IV, counting a bag of money before a young Thomas Aquinas, said ‘You see, young man, the age of the church is past in which she said silver and gold have I none‘. To this the brave young priest replied that it was indeed past, but so was the age when the church could say ‘rise up and walk’.

If we feel that we are witnessing church syndrome,what should we do about it, I wonder?