Monday, October 29, 2018

God wants our cooperation in our Christian living.

I often see men and women of good faith struggling very hard to become better Christians and this gives me a lot of hope.  There are quite many people who make the effort to go to weekly confessions and this edifies me as a priest, because guiding people to holiness is one of the reasons I have given my life over to be a priest of God.  If they have a thirst and a hunger for spiritual perfection and the attainment of their own sainthood, it means that as a priest, I must be doing something right.  A church that doesn’t have her parishioners striving for holiness may be an indication of the lack of holiness in her pastors.

What do these people struggle with?  The range is broad, but I have come to see that there really is a common issue that serves to address all sins and addictions.  I know many people pray for the ability and strength to stay on God’s beam, where they will make the right choices that make their lives something that glorifies God.  When a person says that he prays that he will stay away from sins of lust, for example, I often ask what it is that he is praying for exactly.  Is it a prayer that wants God to place him in some sort of spiritual shackle or restraint, preventing him from doing things that disrespects his dignity or viewing things that do not please God?  Does their prayer for this view of holiness disregard the value of this own part to play in the pursuit and quest for holiness?  It has come to light that this seems to be the mind that many some Christians have whenever they lament to me that they pray for the ability to overcome sinful inclinations, but have hardly made a dent in improving their lives.

Do we have this notion about how God should be working and are either miffed or disgruntled with God for not improving in our moral lives?  The issue really isn’t that God is at fault or slow in working, but that a very large part of this ‘puzzle’ is missing, and that part has a lot to do with us. 

Yes, God does want us to live better lives all the time – lives that not only glorify him, but lives that make us instruments and conduits of his love to the world that we live and work in.  But God doesn’t want to do this alone.  He could if he wanted to, but out of his generosity and humility, he chooses to do this with the cooperation of his beloved sons and daughters.  A holy life that is made holy outside of our desire and effort has very little value of love and holiness.  It is a bit like when a naughty or recalcitrant child who has done something he shouldn’t have is told and even forced to apologize for his actions. If there is no sincere contrition and sorrow for his actions, the apology is a mere mouthing of a few words that come only from his lips, but nothing in his heart.  What comes from the heart is a willingness and an effort to demonstrate that he knows that he has made the wrong choice, leading him to do a wrong action, ending up hurting himself and his fellowman.  

We need to apply the same principle with holiness.  Holiness will have very little value and cannot really be called holiness when our own part in cooperating with God’s grace is missing.  If our cooperation isn’t required when it comes to holiness, God isn’t God, but a control freak of supernatural proportions. Imagine a world where no one has the possibility to make a mistake, where every person cannot do wrong, simply because everyone has been programmed or forced to ‘fall in line’.  There will be discipline, there will be conformity, but one thing will be missing for certain, and this one thing is love.

Love in its fullest sense has always to embrace and include freedom – a freedom to either receive and cooperate with the love given, as well as the freedom to reject and spurn what is offered.  Only when it is given back with a free choice is the circuit of love complete.  

People who want to be restrained and stopped from sinning by a force outside of themselves often show themselves to be people who do not understand this very important dynamic of love, and this, in all likelihood, is the reason why their prayers to live a converted and holy life has failed to bear much fruit.  They haven’t realized that God desires very much that they give over their lives to him in love.  A person who is loving his addictions and sinful habits most of his waking hours simply isn’t going to make that conversion if he isn’t first going to want to love God and God’s ways and make that his central focus of love. 

Simply put, we can only truly sin less if we start by loving God more. It is this cooperation that God delights in. 

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