Friday, June 12, 2020

Christianity is New Life in the Spirit

It is very easy to think of Christianity as "a bunch of stuff we have to do" (or not do), because God and the Church say so, and then try to negotiate and integrate this rather burdensome collection of stuff into our lives.

We really need to ask ourselves: "Is this how we live our faith? Is this how we present it to others?"

The rest of the world often views Christianity as a collection of external rules that more or less interfere with real life. This is one reason why people in the secular world view serious Christian faith as a hindrance to living a mature human life.

Christianity is seen as an obstacle and even a frustration to the desire to attain the fullness of personal existence. Its laws and complicated disciplines, rituals, and structure of authority - all imposed by manipulation and fear - suffocate the person. Christianity sets itself against the motivating impetus of living, the attraction of reality that gets people out of bed every morning, that actually interests and engages them as persons in a meaningful way. It's supposedly important for what happens to someone "in the afterlife," which seems remote from the vitality and the demands of the here-and-now. Religious people are preoccupied with maneuvering their way through arcane mazes in order to avoid some future punishment. They are no different from anyone else other than these "games" they play.

So goes the thought process of some non-Christians and the portrayal of Christianity in the general culture. Is that what it means to be a Christian? What a grim business! No wonder people want nothing to do with it.

But of course this view is a terrible distortion of our faith. In reality, our relationship with Jesus in the Church fulfills our humanity and illuminates the full depths of what we seek in all that we do: the Mystery that fascinates us and calls out to us in all the good and beautiful aspects of life. We must beware that we do not allow our own understanding of our faith to be reduced to a kind of puritannical moralism. Our fulfillment, our happiness as persons is central to God's promise.

Jesus calls us to life - "eternal life" - which is the opposite of a constraint on our humanity. In reality, sin is what frustrates and suffocates us. Jesus heals us, sets us free, and transforms us.

We must remember above all that Christianity is a new life, a supernatural life, a life of communion with God. Through baptism, we have been given a participation in the Divine life, and through grace this life grows within us and transforms us. God gives Himself to us; He draws us into a personal relationship with Himself; He leads us to our destiny which is to share forever in His glory, to behold and to love forever the One who is the fullness of all goodness, to belong to Him forever.

Eternal glory has already begun, secretly, in the very heart of this ordinary life, because God dwells in us, and God is at work in our lives.

But why are we so dull and unaware? Because we need the light of the Holy Spirit to recognize the path He has laid out before us. Christianity is not external to the real concerns of our lives. It illuminates them and opens us up to their true meaning. But this only happens if we live the relationship with God that He continually desires to deepen throughout our lives.

And how can I live and grow in a relationship with Eternal Love except by asking for Him to change me, asking for Him to empower me to love Him more, asking Him to enable me to see the Church as the instrument of His love, and her teachings as the road of love that really corresponds to my life?

I want Him to "come" into my life, deepen my relationship with Him, and make me more aware of His presence. This is why I must ask, continually, for the gift of the Holy Spirit to be renewed within me. This is why my whole heart has to be a living, loving, begging prayer for God's grace.