Monday, July 25, 2016

How we can Choose the Path of Love

Galatians 5:13-15 (MSG): Acting as Agents of Love

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?

Spiritual freedom is a gift God grants through faith and without cost; it cannot be earned. Although we are given this freedom, it is how we employ it in our lives that makes a difference.

Our freedom came when Christ died for each of us on the cross. We were free the moment God, the creator of the universe, took on the flesh of humanity and then offered it up as an act of love for each of us. Paul, in effect, reminds the Galatians that they are free through their faith in Jesus. No works, offerings, or observances of the law can earn one’s righteousness with God.  Jesus satisfied this on the cross for each of us. And it is through our faith in him that we are made free.

Paul’s letter applies to us, too. We are given great freedom through our faith to live any way we choose. But as Paul warns, we should not take this freedom for granted, doing whatever we please to whomever we choose. We are called as Christians to love each other, and neighborly love, as Paul reminds us, is the essence of living in Christ: “For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself.” Our freedom in Christ, then, is a choice to act in love. We can choose to either love our neighbor as ourselves or backbite, persecute, slander, and destroy God’s image and likeness. Through temptation, the latter comes easy; the former happens through our commitment to God who is love (1 John 4:8).

My son asked me the other day, “Dad, why is it that all we see on Twitter and Instagram is about people killing and hating on each other?” I thought hard about it.  My answer came from some commentary I read. When we see an evil act as the center of attention, we need to widen our view and look to the margins. There we will see the helpers, people offering themselves as a refuge to protect, rescue, and console the afflicted. It is our job to love even when evil is at the center.

I pray that we all choose to live as agents of love, especially on the margins of life.

May the peace and love of Christ be with you all.

Stan

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Why Judgmental Catholic Christians should Love Everyone

Many faithful Catholic Christians, although innocently, don’t acknowledge the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. For many Catholics, choosing to explore theology or the deep teachings in the Catechism is not important to their faith life, and I don't blame them. They go to Mass, tithe, and even claim their Catholicity among their friends, families, and acquaintances. They, for the most part, don’t care about or concern themselves with the theological/moral teachings of the Church, at least beyond the basics. The Eucharist is communion with Christ for them, and maybe they learned about the real presence in their Baltimore Catechism or the experiential teachings of the 70’s -90’s, but they are not concerned so much with that. They are faithful and live the best they can in the Catholic tradition. It is not really their fault. These are wonderful, loving people who lead busy lives and do all they can to embrace their faith.

On the other hand, there are some who are zealous to learn and embrace the doctrines of their faith. They love to delve into the catechetical teachings of the Church and contemplate the tenets of faith and Tradition. Through this experience, they get to mull over the theological/moral positions of the Church. This can be both constructive and deconstructive, in a sense. Many equipped with this grace of knowledge use it to love God and neighbor more; it draws them closer to Christ and equips them to better love the person in front of them. Some, conversely, use the teachings of the Church and their knowledge to ostracize sinners. The Eucharist, given to us by Christ as the great thanksgiving, is something the traditionally-minded and catechetically astute sometimes use as a tool of exclusivity, denying people who are most hurt and in need of mending access to the medicinal repair of Christ’s flesh and spirit.

There are many in the apologetic, orthodox circles of the Church who believe they can cast judgment on those who can and cannot or should and should not receive the Eucharist. And this false judgment reduces to nothing more than pharisaic finger pointing. All the faithful (myself included) would do well to remember the words of Jesus to the Pharisees in Matthew’s gospel: “So Jesus said to them, 'I tell you: the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the Kingdom of God ahead of you'” (Matthew 21:31).