God Loves You, but…

And now this from St. Augustine:

“If you love me, follow me. ‘I do love you,’ you protest, ‘but how do I follow you?’ If the Lord your God said to you: ‘I am the truth and the life,’ in your desire for truth, in your love for life, you would certainly ask him to show you the way to reach them. You would say to yourself: ‘Truth is a great reality, life is a great reality; if only it were possible for my soul to find them!'”

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)

As I do ministry, both in and outside of the parish setting, it seems that people’s view of God impacts their view of the Church which, I think, makes a lot of sense. Those who know the Lord and have a living, personal relationship with him know that the Church is a conduit, an avenue, for his mercy and love to be made known in the hearts of believers and all men and women of good will. Those who understand God to be a ticked-off Dad with a long to-do list for his lazy children will see the Church as an oppressing institution whose rules and expectations have no place in 21st century life.

Then comes the common misconception: if God is really a God of tenderness who’ll love me no matter what, then I don’t need rules or expectations because I can do whatever I want since God will forgive me because he loves me.

OR

God is a mean oppressive God who I don’t really have to follow because I don’t believe Jesus came to encourage glumness and pain so I’ll just do whatever I want.

breakingnews

God is a God of mercy! God is a God of tenderness and love! But……………

Original sin did not, as some of our other Christian brothers and sisters might say, totally obliterate our human nature. We humans are fundamentally good but are in need of God’s grace to achieve perfection and truly become the people he created us and is asking us to become.

Jesus is the way! Christianity isn’t a mere ideology or self-help program, but is a way of life. Thomas Merton said that the “Christian life is just that: a life to be lived.” Holiness is a journey, not a destination. Jesus said, “follow me!” (Mt 4:19) and “I am the narrow gate!” (Mt 7:13) The thin line traced in the sand by the Cross as it was carried to Calvary by Christ is the narrow way; walking that narrow way faithfully is the most difficult thing a person can do, but it is the most necessary thing a person must do in order to follow Christ.

It’s hard to walk that narrow way because we are like cars badly in need of a front-end alignment: as soon as we take our hands off the wheel, we swerve right off the road. As soon as we go on spiritual autopilot, take our hands off the Christian way and try to go out on our own, we split from the narrow way and end up in the ditch of sin and death.

So the rules and expectations, the moral codes and 10 Commandments, the fasting from this and the abstaining from that, the Sacraments, the prayers, the rituals and structure, all of these things are like bumpers on the bowling lane of life. They are not meant to stop us, hinder us, or make us miserable but to push us, encourage us, and enable us to be truly free from human vice and to be open receptacles of God’s love and mercy, to grow in virtue and to really become the Christian men and women, the sons and daughters of God, that we are! Christian, become what you are!

The Cross is a sign of victory for us, it is a sign of salvation and the power of God’s mercy over the pain of sin and death in the world and in our hearts. It is for us a sign of freedom and joy.

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called…Christ is the power and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18, 22-24)

Again, from Augustine:

“If you love me, follow me. ‘I do love you,’ you protest, ‘but how do I follow you?’ If the Lord your God said to you: ‘I am the truth and the life,’ in your desire for truth, in your love for life, you would certainly ask him to show you the way to reach them. You would say to yourself: ‘Truth is a great reality, life is a great reality; if only it were possible for my soul to find them!'”

How do I follow him? Walk his narrow way, follow closely the path of his Church, and let yourself be forgiven, set free, and forever alive in Christ.

RA

*Featured pic from https://henrytrocino.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/the-reasons-for-the-command-to-enter-the-narrow-gate/