“Be the change you want to see in the world”
“Never change who you are”
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, No one thinks of changing himself.”
“You were born this way”
These are all familiar quotes to us. We hear them in music, in movies, and see them on cheesy prints they sell at gift stores. One challenges us to change ourselves for the good of the world, while the other embraces comfort in not changing at all.
Often people assume they can change the world by giving in to who they feel they are. This means embracing all faults and making them excusable by thinking that removing those faults would be dishonest to who they are. For example, I really struggle reaching out to people. I am shy about meeting new people, and often I make excuses for myself because I am too afraid to get out of my comfort zone. I found out there is another new mom not far from me and I was so afraid to reach out to her. I made excuses like “she’s a bit older than me”, “she won’t like me” , “she is a stranger”, and “I’m too shy”. I convinced myself it was okay to just keep to myself because of my introverted nature. It took several weeks for me to just send her an e-mail.
It seems more apparent that people would rather change their surroundings than change who they are internally. We may challenge ourselves to do good deeds, which in turn can make an impact on ourselves, but it is only temporary if it isn’t pursued and ultimately will yield little or no fruit if we do not continue to change ourselves.
We may need to reflect on the little things we do and ask ourselves some hard questions. Am I humble? Am I modest in dress? Do I love selflessly? Do I always expect something in return when I do something kind for someone else? Do I really put God first?
The change we embrace must not be solely fuelled by the desire for what we wish to see happen in the word nor in what the world wants from us. Instead, any change we make must be rooted in Christ, who is truth and love. It is only by Him that we can be made perfect. This conversion is about seeking holiness rather than temporary happiness.
Christianity calls us to change the world by changing ourselves daily by picking up our cross and conforming out lives to Christ. It means turning away from sins that we may have allowed to become habits in our daily lives. It requires repentance. A murderer can become a capuchin, but it requires a change of heart through conversion, not just once, but daily.
As the Christmas season draws near, let us prepare our hearts for the celebration of the Incarnation. Let us change our ways and continue to pursue a real relationship with Christ, one that requires us to change and to grow. Let us change into the people of God, not of the world.
Well? Are you hardcore? How can we define a hardcore Catholic? Is there even such a thing? The term ‘Devout Catholic’ is defined differently for many people. For some, it is just the Catholic that always goes to Sunday Mass. For others, it is the Catholic that seems to have a deep spiritual life, but perhaps doesn’t really follow every little thing that the Church teaches.
Fulfilling our Sunday obligation is only part of being Catholic. We must also frequent the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist, pray daily, and assent to the teachings of Holy Mother Church. It is not enough to say “I am a devout Catholic” and think this is a synonym for being a Catholic that attends every Sunday mass. Attending Sunday Mass is an obligation that every Catholic has. Even the Pope has to attend Sunday Mass. Christmas and Easter are not the bare minimum requirements for being Catholic either.
When we look at the lives of the Saints, we see that their biographies do not only consist in attending Sunday mass. The Saints lived lives of heroic virtue, at the service of God and others. We can look at the lives of the desert fathers who committed their lives to prayer. We can look at the life of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and see how she devoted her life to charity and love towards those that were in most need of physical and (most importantly) spiritual nourishment. The lives of the Saints demonstrate an interior martyrdom which is a death to self and a desire to know and love Christ above all. To truly love Christ is to show the “least of these” the love of Christ in action.
Being a real Catholic is not about having a “holier than thou” disposition. Many times, the phrase “holier than thou” is said by those who feel intimidated or are offended when someone tries to help someone out of sin, even when done in charity. Sometimes they are right when they say we are being “holier than thou”. Oftentimes, when people of the world say this to us, it can make us feel like we have failed in evangelizing. If we are doing our best to love Christ and doing all that we possibly can to lead others closer to Him, then why is it received with such distaste among our family and friends? For many people, there is an internal moral crisis that prevents them from seeing things objectively. For others, however, I believe that they see a disconnect between our words and deeds. For some who do seek to live a life of virtue, they may still be shut down. Although it may not be easy for people to hear the truth, I believe that if our words are formed through prayer and said with humility and charity, our Blessed Lord will bless them in some way. The question is, how do we get through to those who do not wish to listen?
I think what it all comes down to is not to ask ourselves whether or not we are hardcore because this may create some kind of pride within ourselves. I think the real question we need to ask ourselves is this: Am I truly faithful to Christ, the Church He established, and do I live a life of service to others? Being Catholic is about loving Christ and devoted to the building of His Kingdom. It is about living life in truth and charity. It means trusting God enough to believe that His Holy Spirit is guiding His One True Church. Adherence to the teachings of the Church (and that means all of them), even if they challenge us, is key if we want to really enter into the fullness of a relationship with God. Being Catholic really comes down to making Christ the center of our lives, and encountering Him on a daily basis by making our entire life a sacrifice for Him and others. Along the way, frequenting the Sacrament of Confession and Holy Communion will keep us on the path when we stray and give us the strength we need the life the Christian life.
When we look at Mary, we can see the ultimate example of reverence and obedience. From her ‘Fiat’ to being with Christ in the last moments of His life on the Cross, she exemplifies what it means to be faithful. We must be obedient, just like Mary encouraged the servant at the Wedding at Cana and “Do whatever He tells you”. We must take up our crosses and follow Him daily. This Easter, we recognize in a particular way that Christ gave His very life for us. If we truly love Him, we will do the same, by laying down our lives for others.
“Each of you knows that the foundation of our faith is charity. Without it, our religion would crumble. We will never be truly Catholic unless we conform our entire lives to the two commandments that are the essence of the Catholic faith: to love the Lord, our God, with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves… With charity, we sow the seeds of that true peace which only our faith in Jesus Christ can give us by making us all brothers and sisters. I know that this way is steep, and difficult, and strewn with thorns, while at first glance the other path seems easier, more pleasant, and more satisfying. But the fact is, if we could look into the hearts of those who follow the perverse paths of this world, we would see that they lack the serenity that comes to those who have faced a thousand difficulties and who have renounced material pleasure to follow God’s law.” – Blessed Pierre Giorgio Frassati
Have you ever met someone for the first time and realized that your pre-conceived notions about them were wrong? I recently had one of these encounters and it made me realize something. You see, this encounter was with someone whose writing I respect. I enjoy reading what they write regarding their musings about the faith. From what they write, I had contrived in my mind a certain persona. “This person will be totally cool and they’ll totally like me”. Suddenly, in a flash of realism, I was reminded again of my insecurities. Upon meeting them, they totally brushed me off. I know the fact that we all fail in what it means to be a Christian, but in that moment, I began questioning my own level of “coolness”. Let me repeat, a fellow Catholic sparked in me the question of whether I was “cool”. After regaining my mental composure, I began to question if this is something I do to others and not realize it. How many people in the world look at me as unapproachable because perhaps I look “too cool” for them; too Catholic, too heady, too puritanical? Have I locked people out unintentionally simply because I am not willing to welcome them into my heart or life, even for one minute?
My friends, Catholic or not, know I write for Team Orthodoxy. They know I’m pretty crazy about the Catholic faith. But do they know that I love them? In the Gospels, Jesus is seen making every single person’s worth known to them. Relationships were important, even with the “unclean” Samaritans. Do my coworkers, my friends, my family, know that I care for them down to the core? Do they see in me that type of love that looks through the external and meets the heart? Being part of a team of Catholics who work for the New Evangelization, I have had to pose this question to them: “When people look at us, do they know that they are loved? When we look at each other, do we know we are loved?”. The truth is, the world will know we are Christians by our love, and not by our blog. If our Facebook screams it more than our actions, perhaps it is time to question where we are at on our road to virtue. We may just be taking the easy route and not taking the hard road of real charity. We heard from in the Gospel that the narrow gate awaits us. Hopefully we can all deflate ourselves of our pride so we can fit through. The only thing you can take to Heaven with you are the souls you helped to save.