Worship, instead of being a rehearsal of God’s saving actions in the world and for the world, is exchanged for making people feel comfortable, happy, and affirmed. Worship, no longer the public prayer of God’s people, becomes a private and individualized experience. Beneath the privatization of worship is the ever-present individualism of our culture. This focus on the self results in prayers that are concerned with my life, my needs, my desires - prayers that seem indifferent to the needs of the poor and the problem of violence and war that devours nations and societies and ignore the works of God in Christ to bring to an end all evil, death, and sin.
We should gain nothing at all by breaking with an unhealthy individualism if in its place we dreamed of an impossible return to the past, for that is either an illusion which breeds schisms or a childish fancy that dulls the mind.
While “institution” for theology and “worship” for piety, the Church is nowhere a “society.” And indeed, although the classical catechetical definition of the Church as society has never been openly revised or rejected, the Church-society simply does not manifest herself outside the common attendance of worship. Yet the experience of worship has long ago ceased to be that of a corporate liturgical act. It is an aggregation of individuals coming to church, attending worship in order to satisfy individually their religious needs, not in order to constitute and to fulfill the Church.