Letting Christ work through us in the here and now

By:

Jason Adkins, the executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, recently invited me to appear on the conference’s podcast, “Bridge Builder: Connecting Faith and Politics,” to discuss the practical implications of my column, “For Christians, the ends do not justify the means“. “Man has,” I wrote, “only one true end: to know, love and serve God. All other ends — all of the goals of our life — must be ordered to that true end.”

This is basic Christian theology, but even in the best of times, we can lose sight of that which should be the most obvious, just as we sometimes suddenly awaken with a start to the face staring back at us from the mirror. Yes, we know that everything we do should be directed toward God, but what does that really mean, in practice?

There is no magical set of actions — do this, avoid that — that amount, in themselves, to the proper ordering of our life toward God. The entire New Testament, especially the writings of St. John the Evangelist and St. Paul, makes it clear that, if we orient all of our thoughts and words and actions toward Christ, we will fulfill the Law, but if we begin with a slavish adherence to the Law, we will always fall short of true unity with him.

“I want to learn only this from you,” St. Paul wrote to the Church in Galatia, “did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard?” (Gal 3:2).

Christianity is not a blueprint, moral or otherwise; it isn’t a series of steps to be followed in order to create a just society, or even personally to get to heaven. It consists, rather, of the Good News that Christ, in sacrificing himself for us and rising again to new life, has offered each and every one of us the opportunity to share in that life and to recover through faith in him the moral freedom that Adam and Eve discarded through their sin.

That moral freedom lifts a tremendous weight off our shoulders: not only, as St. Paul understood, the weight of the Law, which no man could ever fulfill on his own, but the weight of modern moralism, the insistence that all of our actions — and, increasingly, all of our words and even thoughts — should be ordered not toward Christ but toward an ever-changing vision of secular justice. The centralizing forces of our age insist that they can create a blueprint for a just society, but having lost sight of man’s true end, what they have drawn is a floor plan for something like the Winchester Mystery House, where stairs lead to nowhere; interior doors open suddenly to the outside, well above ground level; and windows look back into other rooms, rather than letting the sun shine in.

For centuries, we Christians, too, have felt the weight of the modern insistence on human perfectibility, the idea that, if we simply try hard enough, we can bring an end to all injustice (“sin” being an outmoded concept, like “truth”) through our own will. We have become convinced that we must spend our efforts on finding a universal “solution” to the problem of, say, abortion or poverty or racism rather than counseling our neighbor who, in her distress, is considering ending the life of her child, or helping our fellow parishioner find a job, or treating each person we encounter as if he were Christ himself.

But it was Christ himself who told us that we would be judged on how we treat, not people in the abstract, but the hungry and the poor and the prisoner we encounter in the course of our daily lives. Or, in other words, on the actions that flow from orienting ourselves toward our one true end, and letting Christ himself continue his work through us, right here and right now.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Recent

Opening the Word: The supreme generosity of new life in God

Friday, June 11, 2021
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Although their rhetoric is often ecstatically hopeful, prophets will not let Israel forget the source of their fortune. The... Read More

With world still in knots, pope turns to Mary with prayers

Wednesday, June 9, 2021
By: Cindy Wooden VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Reaching the finish line of a monthlong Rosary marathon, Pope Francis again turned to Mary, asking her... Read More

‘A herculean effort’: What Catholic schools learned amid the pandemic

Monday, June 7, 2021
By: Brian Fraga The best compliment that Patrick Boyden has received from parents and teachers is that this school year has felt pretty close to... Read More

Opening the Word: The Eucharist and the Church

Friday, June 4, 2021
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Polls from Gallup and Pew tell what seems a disastrous story relative to the Church. Everyone seems to be... Read More

Back home again (in Indiana)

Wednesday, June 2, 2021
By: Scott P. Richert In the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and across the entire state of Indiana, May 23 was the first Sunday since March 2020... Read More

Do we need a Catholic literary revival?

Monday, May 31, 2021
By: Ava Lalor I was in middle school when I first put pen to paper and began drafting what I thought would one day be an epic novel. Yes, I was one... Read More

Opening the Word: The Trinity and mission

Friday, May 28, 2021
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Trinity Sunday has become abstract. Maybe, it is because the doctrine of the Trinity functions as a supreme abstraction by... Read More

What Catholics can learn from Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, May 26, 2021
By: Gretchen R. Crowe Maybe you remember the Sneetches? Yellow bird-duck things with short legs, long necks and greatly pronounced rotundity? These... Read More

Politics and religion drive tensions in the Holy Land, but do not forget the humanity of those most affected

Monday, May 24, 2021
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion Here it comes again. Violence between Israelis and Palestinians once more has occurred. Tragically, it is nothing new. It... Read More

Opening the Word: ‘Not mine but yours’

Friday, May 21, 2021
By: Timothy P. O'Malley When did Adam and Eve sin? The answer, at least to biblically informed Catholics, is obvious. When they ate from the tree... Read More

Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!