Thursday, November 8, 2012
Training for the Test
Our society has grown steadily more blind and deaf to the notion of something as old as sin, namely sin itself. It persists in singing that if everyone agreed to get along, the aches and motivations of the human heart that tend toward the darker elements of life would somehow be snuffed out. It is an earthly rendition of the Heavenly promise absent the one focus (God) that would bring about that perfection. COEXIST! It commands. It never says how.
The fallen earthly tune sings that somehow without the Greatest Good, the Only Good, we will be good, all gazing out at the heavens in our Federation land of tolerance and harmony where no one thinks outside of how one should think no matter what. In the land of tolerance and diversity, we will become Borgs without the implants, serving the quality of life for the state, and thinking only what the state deems agreeable. Resistance is futile.
But don’t worry, you can still call yourself whatever you like. You can even practice your faith if no one else is affected by it ever, not in the workplace, not at school, not in politics, not in your homes or on your lawns or in your children’s hearts. It can only be you communing with whatever it is you commune with, and it should only feel good. No one’s God should be in the business of challenging His creations. He should have made us better. So we are free to worship a god of one’s own imagining, the inverse of who we are, beings made in the image and likeness of God. One need only look at the daily barrage of the news, entertainment and politics to know that we are losing this battle against the world.
We need allies. As such, we need to know how to win hearts and minds to the reality that 1) there are objective truths and 2) they are knowable. Even within the Catholic Church, relativism has watered down the purpose of Christ’s teachings and the person of Jesus to a cool progressive ancient teacher who hugs and encourages you to share, sort of a Barney for adults who need that sort of thing. Modern thinking is Love should require no sacrifice, Love makes no demands, Love makes no judgments, Love should only always feel right. Ergo, Modern God doesn’t demand anything of our souls either. God doesn’t care if you take birth control and He gets that you need to have an abortion or Jesus never said anything about homosexual sex. God doesn't care about what you do in the bedroom. That's just silly. He only cares about other sins, real sins.
The only sin in the modern age is judging others or naming sins as such. If you do either of those two things, you’re a hater. Because Jesus said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” It is the only quote that still gets raised. But if one argues, judging me a hater is rendering judgment, that’s just being sophomoric or clever. You declared a limit on behavior, ergo, you’re still a hater.
Christ is more than a man who said, “Be Excellent to each other.” He said, “I am the way, the truth and the light.” He told us we were to love our neighbors as ourselves and “Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” He told us he did not come to unite but to divide, and that He was the fulfillment of the law. After giving us the Beatitudes and exhorting us to be salt and light to the world, He cautioned us not to water down His words or our faith or our thinking. * “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Do I think this battle can be won in politics or law? No. And it was never meant to be won there either. As we know with so many other past battles, we cannot legislate or politically bully hearts to be other than as they are. We can only live out lives steeped in service to others and love of God, obedience to God's teaching. We must do good because we love, we must love because God created us to love. We must recognize that however much we give, pray, love or serve, it is insufficent. It is baseline. The God who is Love, always wants us to love more. So ours is an infinitely Demanding all just all merciful God.
How many of us would consider ourselves more righteous in our lives or thinking, obedient in thought and words and deeds than those who had the opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus at that Sermon on the Mount? How many of us if we look hard in our hearts, seek to mold Christ to fit our hearts, rather than grow our hearts outward toward God’s vision for them? How many of us pay attention to the existence of sin in our own hearts and thoughts and words and what we do and don’t do? Do we even know what is sinful anymore? Can we name the sins of our lives, not in the generic “Naughty and Nice” categories, but the real ways in which at some point, we scream at God, “No! I Will Not Serve!”
Do we understand that all sin is an echo of the first sin; Lucifer’s breaking with Heaven, and of the second sin, Adam and Eve refusing God? “No, I will not obey.” They are the opposite of “You shall love your God with all your Heart, Soul, Body and Mind.” (Serve God first). And “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Obey the commandments in mind, word, thought and deed toward everyone around you, everyone in the world.
How poorly do we see ourselves? More importantly, how do we learn to see more clearly, the planks in our own eyes that we may pluck the splinters from others?
We will have to put on the armor of Saint Joan and ask for the fiery tongue of Saint Paul, the steel reasoning of Saint Thomas Moore, the understanding of our faith parallel to Saint Thomas Aquinas and the simplicity of Saint Teresa of Lisieux. We need the hands of Blessed Mother Teresa, the charity of Saint Francis, the clarity of Saint Augustine, and the wit of Saint Catherine of Siena. In short, we will need to train under the communion of the Saints. They lived through difficult times, they spoke truth. They prayed hard. They struggled before God and surrendered. They gave everything to God. Their spiritual battles should be studied in preparation for our own. We will need their bones of thought to stiffen and strengthen ours. We will have to lean on the 2000 years of thinking and prayers and tradition and beauty and riches of our Church until we can add our bit to the walls. As laity, ever reaching upward, we should be seeking to be part of the walls, the blood and the brick and the mortar of Christ’s Church.
The end goal can overwhelm given the immediate fears that might darken the heart. Family won’t like what I say. Friends won’t like what I say. It will hurt. Have courage. Take heart. We do not yet know the roles we have been given by God. This is training. Start reading. Start learning in this year of faith. Stay close to the sacraments and ask the Holy Spirit to direct your feet. You will find your Calcutta; your place where God’s will is being presented. All you need do is obey. There are an infinite number of graces God hopes to flood in our souls if we would only submit. It is a luminous promise, to be transformed such that we will only see Jesus in our lives. So trust that all that is, is an opportunity for grace. Trust that if we seek, we will find. If we trust, the words will be given to us to speak and more besides, and if we pray and submit, God will grant us the infinite amount of grace needed to get us through the test of this world soul intact and bring a whole bunch more with us in the process. We want to make sure everyone is at the feast.
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