A popular bumper sticker quotes Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It’s not quite right because it makes us the author of what we want ordered on this Earth. Be the love of Christ to the World, and you will be changed and the world with you. Better yet, “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire!” -St. Catherine. How daring to know we are all matches. How sad that we are all afraid of allowing ourselves to be struck.
As Catholics, we are called to imitate Christ, and what we profess, do, think and believe becomes who we are, what we are for others. We are the body of Christ. Our goal is to be the Eucharist for others. What does this mean and how does this happen? God gives us a blueprint in Christ’s words and His Life, and in the life of Mary, Mother of God and all the Saints. God gives us further elaboration in Scripture and in the lives of the Saints through the Holy Spirit. It is a tremendous tremulous thing to seek to love God better, and the journey always comes to us embracing that paradox that is the beauty of the gift of His Crucifixion.
Because God is love, the starting point of growing one’s heart is addressing the issue of sin. Sin remains the great destroyer of relationships, beginning with each of ours with God. Sin is what keeps us locked on ourselves, our eyes fixed squarely on our navels and filtering all things good, great, miraculous and beautiful, cruel, hard, difficult and overwhelming, according to our desires and fears. We cannot love well steeped in sin.
Ergo we must seek to shed all opportunities for sin, all temptations of sin, and be vigilant about when we sin, availing ourselves of the gifts the Church has in abundance waiting for us if we want to better know Him. Reconciliation is necessary often if we are to deepen our trust in God and knowledge of His Divine Mercy and Generosity. Christ came to give us this great gift of the forgiveness of sins, greater than being given the gift of sight or the cure of leprosy or the ability to walk, is this gift that all of us can receive, to be forgiven our debts.
Christ gives us His body so that we may grow like Him. Our bodies need healthy food to grow best. Our souls need holy food to grow best. It is that simple. Receiving the Eucharist often requires we make time for God, we come and we hear His word and we are present at the mass. Coming to God at the mass is like walking the road to the Father’s house. God sees us loading up the car, struggling with finding the keys or the hassle of carving out time and has already begun preparing a feast in delight at seeing us far off but coming His way. When we fail to attend mass, it is like skipping a wedding. We have robbed ourselves of a beautiful lavish feast, and all the guests including our beloved Host, of our presence.
Become more knowledgeable by consulting the dear friends of Christ who have already walked this Earth and endured the battle with being broken human beings and become known as saints. They know how the hardness of sin and suffering and death can grind down a person’s faith. They know how easy and swiftly we can succumb even in an instant. From Saint Peter’s denial out of fear to Blessed Mother Theresa’s darkness of the night, Saint Augustine’s struggle with desire to Saint Paul’s wrathful persecution of the Early Church, all of the Saints have a story that reveals how loving God, being faithful to Christ required everything and yet was possible for the greatest of sinners. We would not know of the older brother who fished for a living if Simon now called Peter had not followed Christ. We would not know Augustine’s keen mind had he not finally fully converted. We would not know Saul; but nearly everyone knows First Corinthians. These people are not famous for who they are, but for who they loved.
Read their lives, read their writings. Read scripture, Old and New Testament. Become aware of how our faith is a story of thousands of thousands of thousands times thousands seeking to love Christ, and of Christ completely loving each of those thousands of thousands of thousands times thousands, no matter how flawed or broken or lost each one of us might be.
Pray. Pray daily. Pray routinely. Pray often. Make it a mandatory and regular part of your daily life, even more important than checking emails. Allow yourself to consider prayer non negotiable and you will find you seek out more opportunity to pray; the need for prayer will come to you more often, and the gifts of prayer (grace) will be lavish. The Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Psalms and all the devotions, novenas and petitions that have been crafted over the years are means to strengthen our relationship with God and grow our capacity to love. Ask and ye shall receive. How much beauty and grace is seeking to flood the earth if all of us earnestly prayed for peace in the hearts of all men?
Serve. Do little things with great love. Listen. Look around. The Holy Spirit will place you where you should be and give you the words, the impulse to act if you allow yourself to be a willing instrument. Most of God’s work is the washing of feet. Look in your own life to see how today, you can wash someone’s feet. Then get on your knees and wash them. In our modern world, we tend to put service first as we are a practical people and we like the idea of getting things done, checking off a list, and we feel good if we’ve accomplished something. But if we want to be Holy as our Father in Heaven is Holy, service must be the product of love and not self satisfying. We need the checks and balances of prayer and the Sacraments and scripture to keep our souls from being side tracked into “I’m a good person.” When we are seeking to live out the Beattitudes.
Taken in concert, these habits will become necessary components of ourselves and thus define us. Over time, these actions will make us aware of how we fail, of where we fall down and lead us to further know how much we must trust and depend on God’s grace. Over time, these actions will help us understand how much deeper we can love than we’ve allowed ourselves up until now. Each degree to which we love more and sin less, renders us more like Christ until we are made translucent in God’s love, ablaze with God’s love; like matches that never snuff out.
Copyright 2011 Sherry Antonetti