On the television right now are several talent shows from different continents. I think they are both called the X-Factor, with one being held in the UK, and the other, here in the USA. After the huge audition rounds, the next step is what is called ‘boot camp’ followed by ‘judges’ houses’, where the competitors are jetted to some exotic location somewhere far from where they live, and go through yet another round of very tough judging from another group of judges together with the usual four. When these competitors come to face the judges in their houses, they are often asked one question before launching into their song, and it is this – ‘tell us, how bad(ly) do you want this’, to which the contestants are wont to say “oh, you wouldn’t believe just how much!”
Much as it is a predictable response from these celebrity hopefuls, what lies behind the question is the fact that wanting all the trappings of success on the celebrity scene comes with it a truckload of difficulties, challenges and heartbreaks that no one seems to envisage before they get it. As I study theology, and deepen my spiritual insights on life and the great challenge that Christianity poses to every one her believers, it is clearer and clearer to me that this question is also asked of each believer at various times of one’s life.
What is our ultimate aim in life? What are all our hopes and aspirations and dreams and endeavours as we live this life? Oh, I am sure that many will respond that it really depends on what we want in life – some of us are family centered, and want that to be the ultimate aim in life; some are so contented to be married and to have each other as spouses to see them through the days of their lives; some are career minded and want to really go as far as they can to succeed in their jobs. And I am sure there are many, many other ‘options’.
Though these are not bad per se, for us Christians, we cannot but remember that beyond these things, which are good and wholesome (at least we hope they are), we all have one common aim and goal in life, and that is to love and serve God first and to be with him in the next life. That familiar first question of the Baltimore Catechism puts it in the proverbial nutshell.
Knowing that well and having it engrained in us will set us right in our relationships with one another, and with the way in which we interact with nature and the world, and all that is in it. The problem is that even as Christians, not all of us are convinced that this is the fundamental imperative and so, we set all sorts of different priorities and agendas in our lives, oftentimes clashing one with the other, causing a whole gamut of stresses and anxieties. Yesterday’s gospel text of the rejected invitation to the wedding banquet uses those excuses as an analogue for our own excuses why we often find ourselves not wanting to respond wholeheartedly to the offer of the divine life by the one who is Divine.
But I can also see that an inadequate understanding of what it means to love God as the number one love can do to many who think they understand what this entails. Many think that it means that they have to abandon their families, be underachievers in their workplaces, and live consecrated lives, and to forego happiness and pleasure in life. That is a false or misunderstood definition of what holiness is. Holiness is not saying “I can’t do that, or do this now”. It is “I can see the pleasure that this gives me, but I can also see that there is a greater, more perduring pleasure that I should be aiming for, and I will take great efforts to choose that with my will and intellect”. Of course, that ‘struggle’ is what each one of us faces every time our lives come to any sort of crossroads that requires of us to make a decision of where we should be going; what road we should be taking.
I would certainly hope that catechumens in the RCIA would be as enthused as some of those X-Factor contestants before significant moments in their journey of metanoia and formation. Would they respond with such deep conviction that those contestants have and say “Oh, I want this so much! I eat, sleep, and drink this – it means my life”.
Because that would be what loving God with one’s whole mind, whole soul and whole strength means.
So, how badly do you want this?