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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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?

Marriage as Covenant, Church as Marriage

Today is the twenty-second anniversary of our marriage. It has been, and continues to be, a crazy-busy, head-spinning, gut-wrenching week, so we’ve agreed to postpone our celebration until sometime late next week or the following week. It’s an important day, but also no big deal. We’re in it for the long haul.

Not long ago, one of my dear spiritual daughters asked me: If it is natural for people to grow out of some friendships over time, what about marriages? I told her that it’s natural that certain feelings toward your spouse might change over time, like they do toward anyone else. The difference is that married love is not friendship.

Love is choosing the good of another regardless of the cost to yourself. Marriage is a lifelong commitment to love one person above all others save God. Love is an act of the will. Married love is an act of the will—a choice you make, as best you can, for the good of another—every moment of every day for the rest of your life.

In this light, married couples might grow out of friendly feelings, but must not grow out of love for each other. Continue reading

Spiritual Cardio, Part 2

Blogger’s Note: This is the latest in a collection of daily posts outlining my journey to the Sacred Heart over the past year or more. See an overview and links to past posts here.

My departure from home to the Engels was bittersweet, of course. I was sad but resigned to going solo and making the most of my time alone with God. Even as I drove, I prayed for the ability to forgive my family, for Jodi (and Emma) to forgive my anger and hurtful words, and for God to have mercy on us all.

I arrived after dark, opened things up and turned on the lights, then turned Bruno and Dusty loose in the house together. Immediately they began tearing around the house, wagging, snarling, rolling, and wrestling. I began streaming the Friday night blues programming from Jazz88 and opened the windows to the lake breezes and nightly noises, then cracked a beer. I sat, watching the dogs, listening to the blues, nursing a beer, and feeling calm but discontented. Continue reading

Love In the Present Tense

Already last night’s timeline is incomplete: today I was reminded that my first real, in-depth exposure to St. Faustina and Divine Mercy came in February 2016, five months before we left for Poland. Fr. Chris Allar of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, keepers of the Shrine of Divine Mercy here in the United States, came to St. Michael to lead our annual parish retreat, and despite having a full agenda, managed to infuse the occasion with enough about St. Faustina, the Divine Mercy image, and the revelations of God’s boundless love and mercy that my curiosity was sparked.

His message seemed almost to good to be true: God loves us and wants us all to be saved. To do so, we must A) ask for His mercy, B) be merciful to others, and C) completely trust in Him.

That’s it, in a nutshell. Hope swells in the heart at the thought it might be that simple, doesn’t it? (Too simple, some would argue–where’s the judgement and justice in that?) Of course, trust in God is not always easy, nor is humbling ourselves to ask for mercy or extend it to others. Continue reading