Words to live by, both after the election, and beyond:
And here we see a problem that is much more deeply rooted than any issue on the ballot. It’s a problem that afflicts both parties. It turns up in religious people and non-religious people alike. It’s the tendency we have to separate not just Church and state on an institutional level, but to separate our faith from our daily living and choices.Easy to see from a distance, not so easy to see when caught within it. And the answer? As simple and as difficult as this:
You see it in the major issues of our day.
In embryonic stem-cell research, scientists hope to make progress in therapies for diseases — and don’t want to have to worry about killing new human lives to do it. In homosexual marriage, activists want to redefine marriage — and want to keep God and the natural law out of it. This disconnect even showed up in the question of the war in Iraq. The Pope and nearly every bishop in the world cautioned against the war in light of God’s law. Now, even prominent supporters of the war like Jonah Goldberg are calling it a “well-intentioned mistake” that has seriously weakened the president’s effectiveness.
But the same disconnect shows up in Catholics’ daily lives.
Many Catholics seem able to support one set of values at Church on Sunday morning and an entirely different set when they stop at the video store on the way home. Catholic marriages are breaking down at an alarming rate, and the scandal that history will most remember about our time is the huge number of Catholic laypeople aborting their babies.
When we drive a wedge between what we believe and how we live, it doesn’t take long for our lives to become the opposite of what we profess.
Ultimately, fear is what keeps the truths of the faith separate from the choices in the lives of Catholics — in exactly the way the Holy Father describes.Encounter Christ, the absolute exception, the personification of the Mystery, the Incarnation of the real. Form a friendship, a communion, with Christ. Yes, it's the ultimate answer to the fear that destroys our integrity as disciples. It's also the most difficult commitment we can make.
Pope Benedict’s prescription against fear is friendship with Jesus. It’s a recurring theme of his pontificate, one he expressed most recently to university students a week before Election Day. “Whoever wants to be a friend of Jesus and become his authentic disciple,” he told them, “must cultivate an intimate friendship with him in meditation and prayer.”
We aren’t meant to slavishly fear what God might think as we go about our day, or darkly worry about what we might be missing out on by doing God’s will.
We’re meant to have a natural, affectionate relationship with Christ. A real friendship with a real person.
Only this will bridge the gap between faith and daily living. And only in this way will we make the best argument possible for the truths of the Catholic faith — living proof.
We're torn. We want that relationship with Jesus...except we don't. We want our lives made new...as long as we don't lose the old ones.
We want to live lives of faith, but we're attached to those patterns of temptation that have yielded sin in our past. We struggle toward the Physician while we battle the withdrawal pains from that most horrifying of drugs--sin.
Sometimes, we're blind to how emeshed in sin we've become. We don't realize how off we are. Until we hit bottom.
Life will present us with the cross we need. We'll often experience it far worse than it needed to be experienced because we denied it so long. Still, it comes. God is merciful, after all. That cross--that bottom--is what we need to renew our relationship with Christ once more.
And let's not forget that we experience Christ in our lives through our encounter with his Mystical Body--The Church. That means the instititution. That means Scripture and Tradition. That means magisterium. Most of all--and most troubling of all--that means people. Professed Catholics and beyond. Family (including the ones that trouble us the most), friends, neighbors, co-workers, clients, compatriots, strangers: We experience Christ through our encoutner with them all.
Or we don't. And that's the rub.
It's difficult to encounter Christ in many of the members of his church whom we meet. This scandal makes forming that crucial friendship with him a serious roadblock.
But we're not in this alone. God seeks us as much as we seek him. The Spirit will find a way for us to connect to Christ. It may come through an encounter with a writer or artist. It may come from philosophy. It may come from an encounter with nature. It may be a mystical experience. It may be the reliable relationship of whatever kind that truly lets you know what love is.
Who Love is.
The Way is there. The Way will not give up on us. We must not give up on him. Yes, we'll fail. So what? We'll try again. What else can we do? Mope? Rot? Wither our lives away in pointless desolation? Despair doesn't cook rice, and it certainly doesn't dance!
We'll fail, seek pardon, be forgiven, and try again.
And as we strengthen our friendship and communion with Christ, we'll find that eternity of joy begin in our newfound freedom to serve Love and Truth. Our joy will begin to outweigh our sorrow on this side of the tomb, until our joy becomes complete in eternity with him.
We can experience the Way, the Truth, the Life. It's simple. It's difficult. It's necessary. It's ready to happen.
So let's do so.
And if enough of us do so, our society may enjoy a friendship with Christ, too.
Who could imagine what that might be like?
Who wouldn't want to?