Becoming Catholic in More Than Just Name
(Part 1 of 4)
What sort of person do we desire to become if we call ourselves Catholic? Are we comfortable doing the bare minimum to keep some connection with our baptized faith or is there a greater calling that we can respond to? To become what our Father in Heaven calls us to be we must open ourselves to grace as widely and deeply as possible. Our Lord’s life must flow through us to others. Understanding and embracing ideas like faith, hope, charity and holiness come to mind, but they require concrete actions to be lived and appreciated, so let us consider four “ways of being” that define what we as engaged Catholics and disciples of Christ strive to know and become. We will look at one way of being each week this month. Let us all grow to know, love and serve Christ.
1. Personal Relationship with Christ: I hope that this is not a surprise to anyone, but it always needs to be the number one point of emphasis. It is very easy to become what we might call a Catholic by lazy habit, that is, somebody who follows a kind of minimal set of rules, living the Christian life in an essentially childish way. Such a person frequently asks, “What do I need to do to at least make it to Purgatory?” Or “What is the minimum requirements the Church dictates of me to be a ‘good Catholic’?” It is like asking your spouse what is the least amount of effort I must convey for you to still be in a committed relationship with me. It is often observed that this attitude is far too widespread among the laity today, and that an important part of the purpose of the Church is to shake us out of our lethargy and help us become disciples. In any case, our Christian life must be defined and motivated first and foremost by a personal love of Jesus Christ. Discipleship requires, dare I say demands of us, a fierce and committed love to enter into a relationship with Christ that bears great fruit and is a shining light to all who hunger for that connection to God. There are two great drivers when it comes to human motivation, love and fear. Sure, to a certain point fear works, but love is by far the sweetest and most effective motivation.
(Part 3 of 4)
Living a Moral Life
In the first two segments of this reflection we highlighted the initial two ways of “being” for those committed to living the Catholic life. The first is having a personal relationship with Christ and the second is entering a relationship with the Church.
The third way of “being” for a Catholic is to embrace and adhere to the Moral Teachings of the Catholic Church: This too may go without saying, and yet it is easily ignored by Catholics who do not lead an “examined” life. Our moral behavior must become the behavior of a Christian, that is, of a saint. How we live in our daily life, in our personal and sexual relations, in our speech, in our social attitudes, in our use of time, must be marked by saintly values. Obviously, if we are serious about the first two relationships, to Christ and to the Church, Christ like morality will follow. And if this difference in moral living really becomes a “way of being” for us, it will be noticed by others.
There are ten steps for living a moral life that I would like to share with you.
- Appreciate the gift of being human
- Use your intellect
- Looking to the law to guide your freedom
- Imitate Jesus
- Form, inform and follow your conscience
- Repent and seek forgiveness when you can
- Love God above all
- Love yourself
- Love your neighbor
- Pray, pray and pray some more
Following these ten steps of moral living will help Christians live virtuous and saintly lives. Before we can influence others and change the world we must change ourselves. If you want to know how to live in and engage the world around you, look to Jesus.
(Part 2 of 4)
Part 1 of this reflection focused on our need for a personal relationship with Christ. The question then arises to the “how” one sustains and forms a personal relationship with Christ. I propose that no one comes to a deep relationship with Jesus without the help and support of others. The twelve apostles had each other. St. Paul upon his awakening to truth had Ananias and the community in Damascus to support him. So we too have the Church and our brothers and sisters in Christ to lift up and support us. This love of and dependence on the Church does not mean that everything will be perfect and flawless. Just like our relationships with family and friends can be painful and troubled at times, so too our relationship to the Church will not always be trouble free. It often requires hard work and forgiveness on our part for true fellowship and love to flourish.
2. Personal Relationship with the Catholic Church: It is true. Our relationship with Christ is formed, experienced and sustained by our relationship to the Catholic church. The Church is the Body of Christ, united by Christ’s assimilation of us to Himself in the Eucharist, and inseparably joined to Christ the Head. All that Our Lord offers to draw people into union with God is made available through the Church. This is a consequence of His saving passion, death and resurrection, and experienced by the reception of her sacraments and, in a different way, by allegiance to her Magisterium, which safeguards Revelation so that we “may be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). Through our belonging to the Church we grow and learn how to know love and serve Jesus Christ. This fundamental understanding of church as an institutional reality is often obscured by the sins and weaknesses of the Church’s members, but we must never permit it to be obscured by hardening our hearts and turning a deaf ear to the beauty of our faith. In other words, the second point is like unto the first: Our Christian life must be defined and motivated by a deep personal love of the Church.
(Part 4 of 4)
Adopting Christ-Like Attitudes
According to scripture, your attitude toward life, your circumstances, or toward other people should always be like Christ. This is something known by many but practiced by few. Good attitudes are generally demonstrated in being positive, encouraging, loving, humble, teachable, cooperative, considerate, and selfless. Seeing Christ like attitudes in others are appealing to many people in search for meaning. Who doesn’t want to be happy, confident, fearless and loving? When we adopt the same mindset and demeanor as Jesus, our ability to evangelize others becomes an ingrained trait that emboldens us and can transform those we encounter. Below are scriptures that help us understand how we should “be” as children of God.
In Relationship to God — Our demeanor should be reverence, submission, love, trust, humbleness, obedience, worshipful, and prayerful. (Psa. 111:10, Mark 12:30, John 14:15, Jas. 4:7, 1 Sam. 15:23)
To God’s People — Our attitude should be love, forgiveness, consideration, caring, encouragement, kindness, humility, unselfishness, respectful, and impartial. (John 13:34-35, 15:12, Rom. 12:10, 13:10, 15:7, Jas. 2:9, Eph. 4:2, 4:32, Col. 3:16, Heb. 3:13, 1 Cor. 13:4-8).
To Authority — Our attitude should be respectful, cooperative, accountable, humble, helpful, encouraging, loyal. Not resentful, defiant or disrespectful. (Heb. 13:17, 1 Pet. 2:13-15)
In Tough Situations — Our attitude should be patient, thankful, persevering, and believing. (Rom. 8:28, Gal. 1:9)
To Our Church — Our mindset should be respectful, faithful, cooperative, helpful, willingness, dependable, participating, encouraging. (1 Cor. 10:32, 1 Cor. 14:12, Heb. 2:12)
In Disappointment or Trouble — Our attitude should be humility, submission to God, prayerful and confident in God’s fairness. (Psa. 62:5, Jer. 17:5, Deut. 32:4, Job 13:15, Rom. 8:28)
To Those Searching for God — Our mindset should be compassionate, forgiving, encouraging, helpful, reconciling them to God. (2 Cor. 5:18, 2 Pet. 3:9, Matt. 18:11-14)
To Sin and Evil — Our attitude should be uncompromising, unaccepting, intolerant, unsympathetic, yet compassionate and reconciliatory for the repentant. (Matt. 18:8-9, Gal. 6:1)
In Blessing and Success — Our demeanor should be humble, grateful, God-glorifying, not self-exalting or forgetful to God. (Jas. 4:6, 10, Prov. 16:18)
In Misunderstanding and Conflict — Our attitude should be peacemaking, reconciliatory, patient and forgiving. (Col. 3:13, Matt. 5:9, Phil. 2:14)
Evangelization cannot be found in a program, video or presentation. Evangelization can only be lived and shared between one person to another. It is love, consideration, truth and hope that flows from one in relationship with Christ to another in need of God’s love. Become who God created you to be. Be not afraid and share the Good News with those in need of God’s love and mercy.