I am a Catholic convert of about three years, as is my father. We came to the Church together, after a long journey - from atheism for me, and from Protestantism and anger with God for my father. We have been trying to convert ourselves to Christ, to become holy through Him and the life of the Church. One of the main ideas we have been trying to live out is the Church’s teaching that we cannot live on our own, but only through Christ. He lives through and for us. I think the Gospel story of St. Peter walking on water, then falling, trying to rise on his own power but being unable, he then called on Christ, who raised him up. But my father and I have found these, among other Catholic teachings, difficult to translate into daily life decisions.
My question is: in daily life, when we are struggling to be moral, to be charitable in our actions and in our hearts, to have true, devout faith in God and His Church, and to have the correct attitude and response towards life - and then we fail - what should we do? We have tried to pray. I understand that the Prosperity Gospel is not true - we cannot pray and simply hope for material benefit or immediate reward. But if Christ is the one who raises us up and lives through and for us, how exactly does this occur in daily life? How can we accept Christ in this way, and what effect should it have? Does it fix our problems, give us the strength to suffer through them, or only inspire us to hope for Heaven in the afterlife? I am not doubting - I am genuinely trying to live a better life in Christ. But we simply do not understand how to do this.
These are some good questions. Are you interested in reading a good spiritual book on these subjects? I think it might give you some help.
The book I recommend is Consoling the Heart of Jesus, by Michael E. Gaitley, MIC. It is a great book that explains how to begin a journey to loving God, and trusting in God’s mercy, how to accept your falls, and continuing your journey to Jesus, using information from St. Therese of the Child Jesus, St. Margaret Mary, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Faustina, and St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits as a guides.
I haven’t read it all the way through but, it is a good book so far.
I also don’t know if you have a Marian devotion, but you should try praying the Rosary. Our Lady will help you with your struggles- as our spiritual Mother, she helps all of us.
Hi Scamater…I personally believe in an organic model that gives everything back to the Lord to deal with in his time, place and context…I know that you believe that…would you say that you are seeking specific outcomes or would you say you are open to the unexplainable, the fluidity and/or the unpredictability of God’s Will? Just some thoughts in reading your story…thank you for sharing.
Trickester (Aboriginal Word for Transformation)…
@Lov3sJesus: Thank you very much for the suggestion. Unfortunately I have very little money, but if I am able I will try to look into that book perhaps. I do pray the rosary, but if I may ask, in what way does the Blessed Virgin help us on a daily basis? Is praying done for inspiration, or does she directly alleviate our anxiety or worry, or in some other way?
@trickster: I am not looking for a specific outcome, other than God’s will. I know that this world and humanity are fallen, and will be until the End Times. I am just trying to understand how to live in this world now, and how to implement the Catholic teaching of Christ working through us and giving us the power and capacity to live according to God’s will and to deal with our troubles.
There’s actually a good Youtube series on Aboriginal Elders…when one elder was asked how do you know what God’s will is for you…she indicated “you don’t”…some people spend their whole lives worrying about it, but when it comes you will know…it is very difficult to wait on the Lord…contemplative strategies envisioned by St. Theresa of Avila may be helpful…Ignatian Spiritual exercise might work…but ultimately like the rest of us all we can do is reaffirm our offer to do Gods will and then wait to see what it is…you will know when you need to know…
What a powerful place you and your dad are in now…don’t mistake it for a gap or vacuume place…it is a place of waiting and hearing…
Trickster (Aboriginal Word for Transformation)
Great questions…hopefully some of these points might help you and your father.
The desire to live with and through Jesus is real. This desire is really for unity with God.
Unity with God. This is what God desires! You with Him. Your father with Him, with you. Communion. Harmony. He wants the Trinity (an eternal exchange of love) with you, and with your father.
We can do a lot to distance us from God, to create less unity.
We can choose not to talk with Him, which means not to pray to/with Him.
We can choose not to call Him to mind, to minimize His presence in our life (what power He gives us!!).
We can put things in between us and Him. Our earthly desires, our lusts, our pride, our hurt, our doubts, our intelligence, our past, our endless comfort seeking, our calendar, our sports, our drinking, our tiredness, our colds, our self-pity, guilt, shame, fears, our selfishness, you name it.
Alternatively we can choose more unity with Him in our daily life. We can approach God many times a day. We can even form a simple and loving plan to spread our approaches to Him throughout the day, like a fan. We can wake up and give Him our first thought. We can’t control what our first thought is, but we can choose to “give it” to Him. To offer Him it.
We can make other such offerings during the day.
We can pray the Rosary…time with God and Jesus’s mother.
We can read a few minutes of the Bible.
We can go to Mass
We can spend 3 minutes at the end of the day to exam our day a bit, with God.
We can struggle, “with Him”. “Lord you’re carrying Your cross, can I join my struggle with you”. Can I carry your cross like Simon of Cyrene? (more unity)
We can go to Confession more frequently, more sincerely…giving manly or womanly confessions, as appropriate. (more unity)
In short, we can sin less, and pray more. (more unity)
We can ask God to turn our work periods into prayer. "This well done work is for all unborn children, my dear Father, please convert my miserable little gift into wonderful graces for others. (more unity)
I’m sorry, these answers explain why it is important to have unity with God and to follow His will, and how to allow Christ to work through us, but it does not answer my fundamental question: what does it mean for Christ to work through us and to empower us, and what effect does this have in daily life?
Intellectually, it means unity of wills. It means allowing God to be present in the world.
Practically it means we become His hands, His voice, His smile, His calm, His truth, His example to the world, His patience, His forgiveness.
His hidden years as a craftsman are made new again in our more or less hidden years working in the world, solving problems for others, and giving example. We become His hands and feet in every day life.
His “workshop” becomes our workshop.
Have you every wondered deeply about what these hidden years mean for us…from being found in the temple…to His Baptism…what wonderful work and example He must have set. The products He made, the handiwork He made to solve people’s problems. The ethics and reputation (the Bible hints at this, doesn’t it) He must have had.
He can work through us again, if we make our will His…and let Him work through us. This is a daily, hourly decision.
All our actions then take on supernatural meaning “through” the action of the Holy Spirit.
So in terms of daily life, letting Christ work through us and enable us to be holy and to suffer consists in constantly choosing to focus on Him and to obey Him and, through this, our will is strengthened, our heart purified, and we come to make Christ more the center of our focus and our guiding principle throughout life? This would then give us the strength and inspiration to do good despite pain, which is the meaning of suffering, and to be kind to others even when our body or environment or demons tempt us towards selfishness, cruelty or vanity. Through us focusing on Christ, this is a choice of acceptance, and the inspiration we get for strength comes from Christ directly working in us with our obedience. If this is incorrect or incomplete, please correct or educate me. I am genuinely wanting to know. God bless.
Yes. I think you have it. The only thing I might add to is the point about “the meaning of suffering”. I may not quite understand what you meant. But when the pain that we suffer is offered to God, is joined with the suffering of Jesus, whose suffering is still ever present to the Father…it is in this way that that suffering is able to take on supernatural meaning.
I think alot of the meaning of this comes from the ontological nature of God. As the Bible says that God is love, God is truth - and when we imitate God by having these qualities, God truly dwells in us. (1 John)
In my own daily life it has been more helpful to me to know that…and to remind myself that God is my Father, that I am a child of God. The deeper ontological stuff is all true and good too, and God can use such intellectual beauty and principles and intelligence to meet and draw His children in using such means. Day to day in the midst of struggles I rely on spiritual childhood…my littleness.
Hm. In a way, it seems that by us being “little”, being finite, humble, meek, we most imitate Christ in the humility of His Incarnation, by which God humbled Himself and became man. We thus humble ourselves by focusing on our weakness and littleness rather than viewing ourselves as little gods. Interesting. Thank you again for your thoughts my friend, God bless.
I see that we have to cut to the chase, so here we go:
But it is easier said than done, ain’t it? For how should we love?
In a few words, we love using God’s Love. As St. Augustine said: “Give what you command, and command what you will.”. But how is this done?
Have you noticed how Jesus healed in the Gospels? Let us take for example Jesus’ healing of the man with the withered hand (Matthew 12:9-13). How did Jesus do it here?
Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”
Now, knowing myself, if I was that man commanded by Jesus I would say, “What?! I have a withered hand here, paralyzed, cannot move it, and you want me to stretch my hand?! Are you crazy?!” But fortunately the man was not me, for
…the man stretched his hand out, and it was restored, whole like the other.
So what happened? Was the power to stretch his hand the man’s? No, it was Jesus’, but still the man obeyed, even though he did not have the power to obey. And that’s how each and every one of Jesus’ healings happened.
Obedience to God is where grace resides.
And what are God’s greatest commandments?
Jesus answered, “The first is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this,You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
Excellent reply. It reminds me of St. Paul’s words: “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.” (2 Corinthians 9:13 NIV, and many others similar) Righteousness comes through faith, and faith is given as grace as a gift in return for our obedience. And obedience to God means a life of love “to the fullest”, in truth and charity.
Pope Benedict, in his second Jesus of Nazareth book, said that love is the means of going beyond ourselves and truly seeing the “other”, reality apart from our subjective perceptions. Through love, we lose ourselves and yet gain our true selves which can only fully live in God, who is Love. As St. John said, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12 NIV) It is difficult to grasp, as are all the mysteries of God, but the centrality of love cannot be overstated. Thank you and God bless.