For those of us who have Facebook how many times have we seen this little advertisement in our news feed? For me who happens to be friends with several teenagers and college students on facebook due to having taught for several years I see it almost multiple times a day. It's sad how many relationships people seem to go through these days. People seem to think that being in High School and College is about going through as many relationships as possible in order to find one self and figure out what you truly want in a relationship. On the contrary however, all this does to many people is cause them to fail to understand what a relationship really means and in many cases leads them down a path of self destructive behavior that will ultimately damage their chances at a real and faithful marriage. Of course this is not the case with every single individual but it does have an effect.
The reason I bring this up is not to get into a full blown discussion on chastity or proper dating habbits but to truly look at and understand the term "relationship". We have forgotten what this means because we live in an individualistic culture in which we have become selfish and we are primarily looking out for number 1. The idea of relationship begins with the Trinity. The Trinity is a communion of persons. God who is infinite and perfect in His perfect love begets the Son and the love between the Father and Son is the Holy Spirit. This is relationship. A total giving of self to the other. This is what our families are called to image and imitate. It is no suprise that in today's culture people have become selfish because that is what they learn from their families. Parents have either not been taught properly or have failed at trying to imitate the Trinity within their own families. We fail to see that any sort of relationship takes work in order for it to be a good one. We have to cultivate it and work at it. Those of you who are married and have a good relationship know you have to work at it and you have to put effort into continuing to keep the flame alive. All of us have friends and we know that in order for our friendships to remain close we have to work at them. I am close to my friends because I maintain contact with them through calls and e-mails and visits. This costs work and money but I do it because I have a bond with them and they are important to me. I also just recently started dating someone and have dated a couple other girls in the past and know that If I want a relationship to work, it takes work. But If I see those relationships in the light of Christ it doesn't feel like work and it helps me to understand that I don't bail on the relationships when the going gets tough or when things aren't going my way.
This whole concept of skewed relationships is also the reason I think people have issues with the Church. I had a long conversation with my Dad while I was home for Christmas. He has a lot of issues with the Church. These issues have bled into him doubting that God even exists and wondering why so many rules exist in the Church. He finds them too unrealistic in todays world to even try and follow them. He asked me how it is I can follow so faithfully? I told him that I do struggle and don't always live the rules as faithfully as I should but that bottom line is that I don't look at the rules as rules. I don't follow the Church, I follow Christ. I follow the Church because I follow Christ. I find it easy to agree with the rules because I have a relationship with Christ. I'm in love with a person. I have encountered a person and that person has transformed me and continues to transform me daily in ways I never thought possible. Because I have a relationship with Christ the "rules" of the Church become easy to accept. They simply just fall into place. I simply see them as guidlines for maintaining the relationship. The same is true for all of our other relationships. Dating relationships, friendships, marriages, they all have rules we just don't look at them as such because we care for the person and don't want to do anything to hurt them.
In that conversation with my Dad I realized him like so many others in our world are victims of being simply introduced to the Church as an institution and a set of traditions we must follow. He was simply never introduced to the person of Christ and given the chance to truly enter into relationship with Him. So many people have simply been given the truth without love and without relationship. Truth without these two things leads to rebellion. Truth without these two things leads to a poor understanding of relationships in general. If people don't have a relationship with Christ they aren't going to work at cultivating their faith and naturally they won't pray and will fall away from the Church. It is no wonder relationships in our world are a mess, it is because people do not have a relationship with Christ!
"The definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity." CT 5
The above quote comes from one of the many documents of JP II. This is where we must begin our work in transforming the culture. We must put our efforts into introducing people to the PERSON of Christ. Once people are "In a Relationship with Jesus Christ" everything else will fall into place, the rules of the Church and their other human relationships. Only then will our culture be radically transformed!
Merry Christmas Everyone! May the joy of the Incarnation lead you all to a deepening of your relationship with Christ!