And then there’s you. Flip open the bible to any page and chances are there will be something about inciting a change in your life. You know, the kind of change that comes about because you aren’t doing something right. Namely, in the way God desires for you. Look at the Catholics. Every Week they willingly go to Mass, where the following words echo from the mouths of those in attendance:
I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done
and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault,
through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God
Well hey. THAT’S counter-cultural. In a society full of people whose life motto is “Do what makes you happy” you find this group of people that schedule a block of time in their lives to go confess that they indeed have messed up – and not just a little bit (I refer you to “greatly”). But wait, there’s more. They also have this event known as “Reconciliation” where they meet with a priest and talk about all the times they messed up. Willingly. It’s no surprise why the public may be a little confused upon first glance of the Catholic Church.
“With every day that passes, I grow more and more convinced how ugly the world is, of how much suffering there is, and, unfortunately, of how it is the good who suffer the most. Meanwhile, we who have been given so many of God’s blessings have repaid Him poorly. This is an awful reality that racks my brain; while I’m studying, every so often I ask myself: will I continue on the right path? Will I have the strength to persevere all the way? In the face of this pang of doubt, the faith given to me in Baptism reassures me of this: by yourself, you will accomplish nothing, but if you place God at the center of all your actions, then you will reach the goal.”
Reach the goal, he says. Awesome, so if I place God at the center of my actions, I will become happy! Well… not quite. Not in the way this world might define happiness, at least. The important thing to realize is that as children of God we are not called to be happy, we are called to be Holy.
Except… personal satisfaction – Look at the people around you who pursue this as their life goal. Do they seem satisfied? Why is it so often that the life choices made by many of these people are choices that seek to subdue reality, numb the senses, and make them forget the realities and consequences of who they are and the choices they make? Why do so many turn to alcohol, drugs, sex, and other emotional opiates when given the chance? To make themselves happy? Hardly. These are tools to take away the thought that is ever present in their minds. The thought that many seek to hide but comes back to haunt them daily. It is a powerful thought, a painful feeling, and a sting that doesn’t go away. “I’m not happy.”
So back to Christianity. It encourages another type of action that is also very unpopular in today’s world. “Sacrifice.” A word that makes many cringe. Even reading it yields an unpleasant feeling. Somebody is giving up something. That’s rough. That’s difficult. It’s selfless. And it’s what we’re called to.
One of the staples of Christianity is that this life is not meant to be easy. The goal is not to get out saying “I had fun!” the goal is to get out saying “I did God’s will.” Easier said than done. Arguably the most difficult part of Christianity is to find meaning in suffering. When something bad happens, using that to relate to Christ – who might I remind you suffered like no other for you. So suffering is a blessing. Not everything that is pleasant is fun. Ever been to the doctor? “This is for your own good”, says the doctor, as he drives a hammer into your knee and shoves needles into your arms. Yet this is a good thing. The doctor is helping you. Out of this suffering came good.
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.
Christ overcame the world. And if Christ is with us, we too can overcome the world. And most importantly – There is a joy found in this knowledge of Christ’s victory and the salvation that awaits for us that triumphs over any other joy this world could bring. I quote once more Pier Giorgio:
“In order to be Christian, our lives must be a continual renunciation and sacrifice. However, we know that the difficulties of this world are nothing compared to the eternal happiness that awaits us, where there will be no limit to our joy, no end to our happiness, and we shall enjoy unimaginable peace. And so, young people, learn from our Lord Jesus Christ the meaning of sacrifice.”
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Philippians 1:29