That's too bad, because they're absolutely true.
Two days hence is Corpus Christi Sunday, when we remind ourselves that when we attend Mass and receive Holy Communion, each of us had better make sure our own spiritual house is in order, because despite the fact that it looks like bread, tastes like bread, smells like bread, and is, therefore, by all appearances, bread, it is most certainly not bread.
If it were, in and of itself, it would be exactly worthless.
And yet it isn't. On the contrary, the Eucharist is the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and as such, it is literally of infinite value. We can never tire of reminding ourselves of that.
Just yesterday I came across the text of a smashingly good address given by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput to the Catholic Social Workers Association in which he shared O'Connor's aforementioned quip and offered her as an example of someone who was to be commended for her "confidence in the Church or her impatience with the empty conceit of people who want the comfort of faith but not the cost of actually believing and living it."
As is his wont, Chaput pulled no punches and spoke clearly. Here's how his talk begins:
We’re here today — or anyway, we should be here today — because we believe in Jesus Christ. Everything in Catholic social ministry begins and ends with Jesus Christ. If it doesn’t, it isn’t Catholic. And if our social work isn’t deeply, confidently and explicitly Catholic in its identity, then we should stop using the word “Catholic.” It’s that simple.
Faith in Jesus Christ — not as the world likes to imagine him, but the true Son of God as the Catholic Church knows and preaches him — is the only enduring basis for human hope. Real hope has nothing to do with empty political slogans. It has nothing to do with our American addictions to progress or optimism or positive thinking.
This is what we call Getting Back to Basics: the Catholic Church is about nothing if it is not about Jesus Christ. Boom.
Needless to say, the whole address is well worth a read.
This "Getting Back to Basics" idea struck me a few weeks ago when I came across this story about Francesca Sinicrope, a student at a Catholic high school in Canada. This 17-year old girl found herself in the unlikely position of having to defend Church teaching to one of her teachers who apparently told her class that Jesus never rose from the dead, and that the real moral of the story of Jesus' life is that we should all be nice to each other or something.
Reading this, I was reminded me of what Rudolf Bultmann once said: "If the bones of the dead Jesus were discovered tomorrow in a Palestinian tomb, all the essentials of Christianity would remain unchanged" -- words that convey an idea so stupid that they could have only been uttered by a theologian.
Here's the deal: at its heart, the Catholic faith (and Christianity in general) isn't about being nice to people. It's not about helping the poor, or taking of the widow and orphan, or fighting abortion.
It isn't about believing things like masturbation, pornography, contraception, non-marital sex, usury, defrauding laborers of their wages, etc., are sinful.
True, these things are part of the whole Christian scene, but they're not The Thing. At its heart, what the Catholic faith (and Christianity in general) is about is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Either Jesus rose from the dead, or he didn't.
If he did, then Christianity is true. If he didn't...well, then, boy, aren't we a bunch of idiots.
How much more clearly could St. Paul have made it?
If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty (too) is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised.
For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.
Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Cor. 15: 13-20)
That's why, as for me, if Jesus didn't rise from the dead, I'd renounce my faith yesterday, and I'd tell every other Christian to do the same.
If the Resurrection is just a myth, then to hell with it.