No Longer I: Living In Christ, the Very Image of God

Blogger’s Note: This was my short final paper for the third semester of the Catechetical Institute, “The Moral Life: Fulfillment in Beatitude.”

The third pillar of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), Life In Christ, pertains to the moral life, as summarized in the Ten Commandments and perfected in the Beatitudes (CCC 1965 and following). This initial point is not a small one: Many of us grow up with the commandments as the foundation for our moral life and do not mature past that point. I have seen two impacts of this in my own life. The first is a simplistic notion of sin and my own so-called goodness (“Well, I haven’t killed anyone…”). The second is a legalistic approach to practicing Catholicism, as though if I just learn the rules well enough and follow them closely enough, I can get to heaven.

But the further one reads beyond those first stone tablets, the more rules one finds, and it seems impossible to achieve holiness on our own steam. By contrast, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us a positive (both in the emotional and legal sense) restatement of God’s laws, which both challenge and inspire us to do good instead of simply avoid evil. God’s beatitude—His kingdom, His vision, His joy and His rest (CCC 1720)—gives each of us and the Church as a whole our purpose (CCC 1719), and “confronts us with decisive moral choices”:

It invites us to purify our hearts of bad instincts and to seek the love of God above all else. It teaches us that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement…but in God alone, the source of every good and all love (CCC 1723).

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Christmas Poem: Hallowed Hollow

Hallowed Hollow

There is a cave between my lungs,
A hollow where my heart should be.
But lo! our Lord an infant comes
And gives His heart to me.

It is a hard unfeeling place
Of stone and stench and rotting hay.
But lo! His virgin mother comes
To clear the filth away.

It is a dark and frigid space
Where creatures wallow in the mire.
But lo! His foster father comes
To light and tend a fire.

It is a black and hidden hole
No other is supposed to see.
But lo! The Holy Family comes
To make a home—in me.

— J. Thorp

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Wishing you the merriest of Christmases and a blessed New Year. Know that our thoughts and prayers are with you even when we, ourselves, are not. We love you.

The Thorp Gang: Jim and Jodi; Brendan, Gabe, Emma, Trevor, Lily and Bruno

 

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Mass Hospitality: Welcoming Strangers to Worship

Not long ago, our pastor implemented the practice of having parishioners stand and greet those around them just before Mass begins. Predictably, the reaction was split: Some people like it as a small gesture of warmth, welcome and connection, while others think it’s unnecessary, corny or even disruptive to their preparations to worship God in the Divine Liturgy.

What struck me most among the reactions, however, was something I saw on social media: That standing and saying good morning to each other before Mass is fake in some sense and doesn’t make us more welcoming. This observation bothered me enough that I set out to determine why. Here’s what I discovered in my own heart.

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For several years now, Fr. Richards has challenged us to intentionally seek out and introduce ourselves to people we don’t know in the parish, especially people who appear to be new to the community or otherwise disconnected. I have never taken this challenge seriously. Instead, I have a list of rationalizations, excuses and cop-outs that will show up rather poorly when I have to explain them to Jesus. These are just a few: Continue reading

Second Coming?

Sometimes at the end of a long day, or after hearing a particularly depressing news story, I catch myself shaking my head and wishing Jesus would just come back already. Of course, I recognize that I am not the saint I am called to be—but I continue to turn and turn and turn again back to God, to beg for His pardon and His strength to do better day by day, and I have great hope in His mercy and His desire for me. So in these moments of sorrow over our tilted world and broken hearts, I find myself longing for His return.

Then last night, at a meeting of the Stewardship Council for my home parish in St. Michael, we watched a short video from Bishop Robert Barron on our mission as disciples and evangelists. I encourage you to take a few minutes to open your hearts to what God may want to tell you, then watch it yourselves.

About two-thirds of the way through the video, a strange thought struck me: What if we are the Second Coming? Think about it: As the Church, we are the Body of Christ in the world—the only hands and feet, the only eyes and ears, the only heart He has in this world. What if, while I am watching the world and waiting for Jesus to return, He is watching and waiting for me?

This morning’s gospel reading contained these words of Jesus:

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.” – Luke 12:42-43

We are called to act on the master’s behalf, to bring Christ—to be Christ—to a waiting world. When I wonder, “What’s keeping Him?”—might He not ask the same of me?

The Distance Is Mine

Ever found yourself so preoccupied with the task in front of you that, when you found you need help, you bellow for your next of kin, only to realize they are right next to you?

Yeah, me neither.

Yesterday I was blessed with a Holy Hour in the middle of my work day. I made my way to the chapel at noon, knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, closed my eyes, and almost immediately, the weight of countless worries settled on my shoulders, and my heart began to ache for consolation, peace and rest. In silence, I began calling out to the Lord, asking Him to come, to hurry, to reassure me.

Then I stopped and blinked my eyes open to gaze upon the Eucharist in the monstrance before me—Jesus, waiting patiently.

I resolved to begin again, recalling the advice of our Demontreville retreat leader on beginning prayer and reflection: “Look at Him looking at me, and recognize, It’s good for us to be here.” In silence I greeted the Lord, and in silence He flooded my heart with peace.

A question arose: Why had I been so distraught? I hadn’t felt that way as I walked to the chapel. Only when I knelt to pray did I feel as though God was far from me.

Then, an answer: The distance was mine.

The cry of my heart as I knelt was not the result of God’s absence, but of my inattention to Him. It was not silence on His part, but deafness on mine. I was so preoccupied with countless cares and concerns I cried out to Him—not realizing He was right beside me.