Spiritual Life: February 2011 Archives
I try to communicate to others, particularly the friends I teach about the Catholic faith, that to be authentically Catholic one has to fall in love with Jesus, and to do what He does. Mercy and love are constitutive parts of being called a Christian. This not always easy. It is a human struggle for many. But we are called by the Lord Himself to love and pray for your enemies; have mercy on the sinner; forgive injuries; feed the hungry. Not willing to do this, then it would be pretty hard to convince others that your proposed faith in Christ as Lord and Savior is true. The Pope's Angelus address earlier today gives us a clue to my point: to be a Catholic means living in the mindset of having a perpetual second chance. Read the 2 papal paragraphs:
On this seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time the biblical readings speak to us about God's will to make men participants in his life: "Be holy because I the Lord your God am holy," we read in the Book of Leviticus (19:1). With these words and the precepts that follow from them, the Lord invited the Chosen People to be faithful to the covenant with him, walking in his ways, and established the social legislation on the commandment that says that "you will love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). If we listen, then, to Jesus in whom God took on a mortal body to become every man's neighbor and reveal his infinite love for us, we hear again that same call, that same objective audacity. The Lord, in fact, says: "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). But who can become perfect? Our perfection is to live as children of God in humility concretely doing his will. St. Cyprian wrote that "to God's paternity there must correspond a conduct as children of God so that God might be glorified and praised by man's good conduct" (De zelo et livore, 15: CCL 3a, 83).
In what way can we imitate Jesus? Jesus himself says: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you will be children of your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45). He who welcomes the Lord in his life and loves him with all of his heart can begin again. He is able to do God's will: to realize a new form of existence animated by love and destined for eternity. Paul the Apostle adds: "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16). If we are truly aware of this reality and our life is deeply formed by it, then our witness becomes clear, eloquent and efficacious. An [early Christian] author wrote: "When the whole being of man is mixed, so to speak, with God's love, then his soul's splendor is also reflected on the outside" (John Climacus, Scala Paradisi, XXX: PG 88, 1157 B), in the whole of his life. "Love is a great thing," we read in "The Imitation of Christ," [it is] "a good that makes every heavy thing light and easily endures every hardship. Love aspires to sail on high, not to be held back by any earthly thing. It is born of God and only in God can it find rest" (III, V, 3).
- a great adventure, go for a purpose: you'll grow spiritually and physically
- an opportunity to pray, to do penance, to be reminded of tradition
- catechesis on the faith
- an opportunity to learn Christian and civil history
- to know your own humanity, that of the other
- learn and experience the christian faith
- have the goal to go to the Cathedral of Saint James to visit the relics of a great Apostle.
The Cistercian monk, philosopher and theologian Isaac of Stella (1100-1169) was featured in the Office of Readings today: Charity is the reason why anything should be done or left undone.
Charity is the only good reason to do anything, but it also sometimes demands that we not do something we might think we want to do. There are a lot of fine distinctions one has to make in this area to live spiritually in common life and ministry. For example:
- We are called to support one another, but not to enable maladaptive behaviors, debilitating addictions, and sins. We must bear with the burdens of others, and be willing to wash feet, but we should not take responsibility for the feelings of others.
- We must seek ways to invite both individuals and institutions to benefit from our strengths, and invite them into the success that derives from them, but--again--we should be careful not to take interior or exterior responsibility for situations that the Holy Spirit has not, or not yet, seen fit to put in our care.
- Sometimes the greatest charity--and often the most painful--is not giving someone what he thinks he wants.
- We must be good to ourselves, practicing good self-care, but that doesn't mean taking it easy and just 'being nice' to ourselves. On the one hand, we must not be so hard on ourselves that our whole spiritual life becomes a rehearsal of faults and sins, for this is one of the devil's tricks in making us fail to notice God, and on the other we must also be careful not be overly forgiving of ourselves so as to effectively give up struggling with certain selfishnesses and sins.
- We must practice the sort of self-charity that nourishes our gifts and virtues, and is ruthless in the unwillingness to put up with sin.