It is spring time and planting season is already in full swing. Soils are being turned and tested for the optimum pH balance, as farmers pray for ideal growing conditions; not too hot or cold, wet or dry. Sail boats are coming out of storage and prepping for a summer on the lakes, their “captains” hoping for the right amount of wind; no gales please! Tennis players train for the sweet spot of the racket – where the center strings are located – for ball control. And the human body, regardless of the season, regulates for an optimal temperature of between 97o F and 99o F. This is but a small sample of what might be called centering, or balance. A road midway between the extremes.
Today, so many aspects of life are being defined by the extreme. The adjectives “uber” and “ultra” are applied to everything from politics to food and drink. The center way, the way of moderation and temperance has been squeezed to near extinction. It is almost as if moderation has become a bad thing! Yet it is proven to be the best way. Like plants, sail boats, tennis players and the human body, society requires balanced individuals for optimal performance. For the Catholic, this is our calling: to be centered in Christ our Lord and Savior.
A life centered in Christ is like being in the eye of a hurricane; stillness. Though the world rages in extremes, the soul finds rest in Christ. Though the winds of change batter our minds to the point of despair, Christ brings calm. God does not want us to be moved by the hurricanes of life, but to be still and know that he is God (Psalms 46:10).
It has never been a more apt time to live a Christ centered life, for our faith is one that encourages peace, harmony, self-control and relief from anxiety. Something both we, and those around us need desperately. In spite of popular extremism, God has ordained order and balance in nature through certain physical laws, as seen above, but not just for nature; for us as well. God has ordained laws especially for us – and these laws are a gift, though they may appear as constraints.
“Do’s and don’ts” are often contrary to what we desire, (just ask any parent or teacher), yet they exist for our benefit by keeping us even keeled in our conduct, the benefit of which is to avoid harm to ourselves and to others. This conduct is called self-control, and is the opposite of self-indulgence. And the problem of self-indulgence is not only the potential for harm, but the apostle Paul equated it to idolatry.
Idolatry?! Yes, idolatry.
Take for example the following scenario based on Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (6:12) where he states “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” (The context of Paul’s words are with regard to eating.) Using his statement, and inserting “wine” as an example, Paul is saying that wine is permissible, though perhaps not beneficial, but that he will not be “mastered” by wine. Paul uses the concept of “master and slave” which many at the time would have understood, but what he is saying is that when we willfully indulge in something (e.g. wine) to the extent that we lose our self-control (i.e. become drunk), we become subject to that desire. And when this happens, it is like saying to God, “I know it is wrong to lose control, but I desire it (more than you)” and this is the sin of idolatry. Neither wine, nor the desire for wine, are idolatry in themselves, but the excessive consumption of it is - because the desire to act immoderately makes the desire our “master.” (I)dolotry, in this case, is an act of self-worship.
This is why Paul exhorted the Church at Corinth to “have the mind of Christ,” and remain centered in him. In doing so, we avoid extremes, whether in food or drink, anger or ambition, and not only is this beneficial to us, and others, but it pleases God. As we read, again by Paul, in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Being centered in Christ is a win-win for everyone!