It amazes me how many of us are jeopardizing our salvation, how many of us ‘Catholics” are risking our eternal souls. Some of us are living lives in states of grave sin because we are rationalizing and relativizing what sin is, and isn’t. We pick and choose, our sin, our beliefs and our behavior based on our own preferred lifestyle choices, on what we deem is good, bad, and even worse, what is truth and what are lies. We rely on ourselves instead of God, and we don’t trust that he wants what is best for us, and his directives indicate that love and charity. They are not rules to punish and cause misery, just the opposite. They are rules that can bring us happiness and freedom, if we only trust God, and follow his ways, instead of our own.
We don’t seem to realize that when we decide for ourselves and do what we want, we are elevating ourselves to a level of “divinity status” that is heretical, apostasy and reeks of pride and vanity. I don’t ever remember coming across scripture passages promoting such vices. Self-indulgence and arrogance are definitely not commandants to be reached for and followed.
The thing is, I was there with all my fallen brothers and sisters not all that long ago. I was attending Mass weekly, yet still doing life my own way. I was deciding what was moral, what was evil, and what was right and wrong for me. The Church was way out of touch and not very progressive, and just didn’t seem to really get modern society and the struggles it presents. Right?
I didn’t know that receiving the Eucharist while in a state of mortal sin, which skipping Mass and committing other grave offenses could put me in a state of, was also gravely sinful. Thank goodness for God’s mercy. Even though I was still living very wrongly, continuing to attend Mass, even if doing so dishonestly and incoherently, made a big difference. God’s grace eventually seeped into a crack of my hardened heart. One day, everything began to change.
One July a few years ago, a new Pastor moved in. He held a pretty strict adherence to Church teaching. He even wore a cassock, something I honestly had not seen before. His expectation was much different than the watered down accountability I was accustomed to. He brought in a new Director of Religious Education, now a very dear friend to me, and things began to happen. Suddenly resources about our Faith began to appear, classes started forming, and a different spiritual direction started to penetrate our community. Many people did not like this, they grumbled, complained, claimed a judgmental and intolerant presence had taken root, and they left. This only more enabled the Holy Spirit to fill with even more light the hearts of the seekers of Light and Truth.
One Sunday, a book appeared in the gathering space of Church. It was the book “Rome Sweet Home” and it changed my life. It ignited in me a desire and thirst to learn more, and so I did. I could, with the resources and opportunities all around me. I realized how ignorant I was of the Faith, even some of the most basic tenants our Faith is based upon. My eyes were truly opened with a new insight, genuine understanding, and realization of Truth. At least it was the beginning of that realization. One we can never ever fathom it completely. The more I learned, the thirstier I became. The more I prayed, the more I wanted to pray and felt that prayer working in my heart and spirit. I started reading nothing but books on the Faith, and becoming totally absorbed and amazed by them. I learned about the Mass and what happens during our Liturgy, and was captivated. I was hooked! My Facebook feed and email inbox slowly became littered with articles, news and information about my Catholic Faith and Family. I had changed.
I am different, I see things differently. Truth is much easier to recognize these days, and my errors seem so very apparent in hindsight. Things that I once thought okay, don’t seem so okay anymore. I am able to recognize much of the evil, not all, but a lot of it that blocks my path at times. That enables me to maneuver around it. It is easier to stay clear of the people and behaviors that may lead me in the wrong direction and cause damage to my heart and spirit. And when I fail, I know where to go for help and guidance.
I have fallen in love with our Savior and Lord, and his one True and Holy Apostolic Catholic Church. The future, though not free from struggles and suffering, seems much brighter and clearer. My new life experiences a peace and joy I didn’t know before. Best of all, I have surrounded myself universally with Saints and Sinners, brother and sisters in Christ who are all looking for the same Blessing. It is the BEST! It is what we all deserve to be, and can be. We must choose it for ourselves though. God will not force feed it to us. He wants our love and commitment without conditions and strings attached. He wants us to choose him freely. If we don’t, we risk losing him forever, and that is Hell. Many of us don't realize our lives here on Earth are like Hell, if they are days spent without him. Hell is our own choice, and God’s justice honors and respects that choice.
So, go ahead, dive in, head first! You will not be sorry. Remember, your lifeguard walks on water.