Thursday, August 25, 2011

Be Perfect As Your Heavenly Father is Perfect

How do you read this verse from Matthew? What does it truly mean? I think this verse is either often ignored completely or taken so literally that it causes people to forget that life can be fun and enjoyable.

The first tendency is to completely ignore it. I tend to see this attitude especially with teens. It is also the typically the mainstream attitude. Most people think that if they simply don't sin and mainly stay away from mortal sin they are good to go. If I obey the 10 commandments and am a nice person then I'm fine and don't have anything to worry about right? Actually not sinning is the absolute bare minimum we as Christians are called to! We aren't simply called to just not sin we are called to virtue! We are called to holiness! Overcoming mortal sin is actually the easier of these two steps. Once we have control of the more serious sins in our life we actually now have to work at being virtuous and not just choosing good things but choosing the greatest goods. I know I'm not there yet. I'm trying but for example what is a better choice, reading a good spiritual book or watching a crappy movie? Most of us probably choose the movie. While watching the movie may not in itself be sinful, choosing the reading is the GREATER good (especially when I haven’t taken any time our for prayer that day yet). We cannot ignore this verse. Yes we may not ever truly achieve perfection in this life but we must strive for it, and perfection is not attained simply by not sinning but by striving for virtue and holiness.

The second tendency I notice is to interpret this verse in a way that leads to scrupulosity. We become so caught up in trying to be Holy that we forget to try and be human. This tendency seems to cause us to think everything is a sin and can cause us to be judgmental of others. This can also lead to pride and self-righteousness. This is not healthy. I refer to people in this category as PODs (Pious and Overly Devotional). I tend to see this especially among young people in the early stages of conversion who in an attempt to not fall back into old habits decide that every activity that doesn’t mention Jesus’ name is sinful.

So how do we reconcile these two views? How can we live this verse? I think the key is in living a BALANCED life. We have to make time not only for prayer and devotion but for our families, exercise, friendship, and reading (this includes academic, spiritual and leisurely). Being scrupulous is just as bad as just scrapping by through life doing the bare minimum to avoid sin. We have to live lives that are radically other. This is going to involve living lives that seek virtue and holiness while at the same time soak in the joys and pleasures of this world in a way that we don't overindulge and avoid sinful actions. For example G.K. Chesterton said one of the greatest joys of this life was a cigar with a pint of beer and good conversation (I’m paraphrasing here but its pretty darn close to what he said). This is the balance I attempt to strike. I don't think I've quite fully figured it out but with each passing day, month, and year hopefully I'm getting a little bit closer. What are your thoughts on this?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart

It is that time of year again. Time for new students, the first all-school mass, BC football games, fantasy football, the feeling of being refreshed form a summer of vacationing and relaxing, and the feeling like I am ready to engage in a serious battle for souls. I LOVE the start of the school year. The fall semester is always a time of new beginnings and there is an excitement in the air to see what God is going to do and accomplish through me and all His other humble servants at Bishop Carroll this year.

The one thing that runs through my mind as this school year starts is gratitude. I am thankful for my beautiful wife and the fact that we have celebrated one year of marriage. I am thankful for the amazing amount of support that exists in my life through my family, my friends, and the Knights of the Holy Queen. I am thankful for my job and the Bishop Carroll Community, especially at a time where so many people I know are without one. I am thankful for Fr. Ben and blessing he will be. God has truly blessed us with an amazing chaplain this year. I am thankful for the opportunity to teach and preach God's word every single day. I could not imagine doing anything else at this point in my life. Getting the opportunity to be on the front lines of God's battlefield by bringing the souls of young people to Christ is truly one of the greatest joys I have in my life.

I think that so often we look at all the negative in our lives without focusing on all the amazing gifts God is showering upon us daily. God has called us into this life and everyday has to be seen as a gift. If we don't start there we are not going to be able to evangelize anyone. If we cannot bear witness to the good things God gives us how can we bring people to Him? Complaining about the negatives in life has always been a struggle of mine and I have just really been reflecting over the last several months about how I truly have nothing to complain about. In the grand scheme of things the struggles and difficulties I encounter throughout my life are so minimal compared to what some people deal with that it really is almost sinful of me to complain about anything. I want to make a serious effort over this next year to root this out of my life. I need to look at those minor challenges and annoyances as opportunities to recognize the good things God has done in my life and ask Him what He is trying to teach me in those circumstances.

Everyday is a gift. Every moment is a chance to see the beauty of God and to enter into the drama of creation. We are called to engage this life with joy and passion. "The Glory of God is man fully alive!" said St. Irenaeus, and man fully alive is man experiencing and embracing EVERYTHING about life and giving glory to his creator for letting him experience it! Too many people have a negative outlook on life and if we live as Disciples of Christ with an attitude of gratitude then we are going to change and affect the world. Thankfulness is what will lead us and propel us to help and love those who need it. Thankfulness will draw us into the heart of our Father so that we may worship Him. The very heart of our worship is the Eucharist and Eucharist literally means thank offering!

How beautiful are your ways O God even when we don't understand them. How beautiful are your ways O God even when they cause suffering and frustration. How beautiful are your ways O God that allow us to experience this life and all that it brings!

I begin the new school year a week from today. I pray that God would use me to affect and change the lives of my students. I pray that when they see me they see Christ and when I look at them I may see Christ in them. I pray that I would lead them and be an example of someone with a grateful heart!