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DIGGING DEEPER

DIGGING DEEPER

In our July DIGGING DEEPER, I am going to offer you a little stroll through one of the many "gardens" that God offers you in the landscape that is your faith. In this stroll, Father Rodney Kissinger, S.J. provides for you an opportunity to "stop and smell the roses." He presents to us eight of the amazing plants that can grow in our garden of faith: Faith, Hope, Love, Disciple, Apostle, Death, Resurrection, and Catholicism.

You may wish to take them one at a time. Read one, reflect, pray, and then move on to the next. A JOURNEY OF FAITH will be up here for the entire month.  

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A JOURNEY OF FAITH    



IN GOD WHOSE POWER WORKING IN US CAN DO
INFINITELY MORE THAN WE CAN ASK OR IMAGINE.

A JOURNEY OF FAITH THAT IS TRULY
A PILGRIMAGE OF THE HEART


RODNEY KISSINGER, S.J.




TABLE OF CONTENTS  


JOURNEY OF FAITH

FAITH

HOPE

LOVE

DISCIPLE

APOSTLE

DEATH

RESURRECTION

CATHOLICISM


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JOURNEY OF FAITH    

We break out upon the scene. We did not ask to be here.  We did nothing to get here.  We begin to wonder: “What is it all about?” That question starts us out on a lifelong journey of faith into the unknown.

Each journey of faith, just like each person, is unique.  And yet, they are all the same. We all have the same origin, the same human nature, and the same destiny.  Each journey of faith is the same as that of Abraham, of Moses, of Peter, of Mary, of Augustine, of Francis, of you and of me.  It is a journey to the discovery, made gradually or suddenly, of the reality of God who loves us beyond our fondest expectations.  And we begin to experience the transforming power of this unconditional love.

Each journey of faith begins with an invitation, a call from beyond our selves, a call from God.  Salvation history begins when God called Abraham, our Father in faith. It was a call to leave his home and family and go to an unknown, unspecified country.  Abraham did not ask where, why, how or for how long.  He just went.  He started out on a journey of faith.  And so it was when Jesus saw Peter and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea, and simply said, “Come follow me.”  They did not ask where, why, how or for how long.  They just went. They started out on a journey of faith.

We too have been called.  The call may have been as spectacular as the flash of light that blinded Paul on the road to Damascus or as ordinary as the whispering sound that Elijah heard on the mountain.  Perhaps it was so subtle that we didn’t realize that we were being called.  And Jesus had to remind us, “You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.”  We were not told where, why, or for how long.  It was an invitation to start out on a journey of faith.

This invitation, this call from God, is not given just once and for all.  It is repeated many times during our journey and in many different ways.  We must learn to recognize it and respond to it.  “If today you hear His voice harden not your heart.”  It seems that each call comes to us just when we have settled down into an orderly, peaceful existence.  We forget that we are not settlers, we are pioneers, we are pilgrims.  And so our peace is shattered and once again we are called to fold up our tent and start out again on our journey of faith.  And each time we foolishly think that this will be the last call.  But sooner or later another call shatters that dream.  We realize finally that life is not a problem to be understood and solved, but a mystery to be accepted and lived in loving, trusting faith knowing, as Abraham did, that God will provide.

The journey of faith, however, is not a completely uncharted course.  Our Lord has made the journey before us.  Our life is a recapitulation, a re-living of his life, at least in its essential elements.  He is “the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus is both the greatest expression of God’s love for us and at the same time the greatest expression of the human response to that love.  First of all there is the helplessness of “infancy.”  Jesus could have come as a full grown adult, but he chose to come as an infant completely dependent on Mary and Joseph.  We too have experienced the helplessness of infancy.  Then there is the “hidden life,” with its obscurity, labor, and obedience.  All we know about 9/10th of our Lord’s life was that He went down to Nazareth and was subject to Mary and Joseph.  During this time He advanced in age, wisdom and grace. Much of our life is also a “hidden life,” a life hidden in the labor and obscurity of the daily monotonous grind, through which we also grow in age, wisdom and grace.

Then there is the “public life.”  Jesus began his public life by being led into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He was tempted throughout his life until the end when he was tempted to come down from the cross.  Much of our “public life” is filled with temptations.  Then there is the glorious “mountain top experience” of the Transfiguration.  From time to time we also have our “mountain top experience” and like Simon Peter we say, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” And we do not want to leave.  But that is not to be, we must descend to the valley below, to the road to Jerusalem, to Gethsemane, and Calvary. Finally there is the “paschal mystery,” the passion, death and resurrection.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught us how to live.  In the Sermon on the Cross he taught us how to die. Gradually we come to realize that our journey of faith is one “paschal mystery” after another, spiraling up to the final passion, death and resurrection into the New Jerusalem.

Our Lord has not only gone on before us to show us the way, He also goes along with us as our guide and companion.   His presence is like a “pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire at night.”  Awareness of his presence makes our journey of faith a joyful, exciting adventure.  We learn through experience that joy is the most infallible sign of the AWARENESS of the presence of God.  St. Paul who made this journey before us tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice.  The Lord is near.”

One of the biggest “booby traps” on the journey of faith is to forget this presence of God.  How foolish it is to climb mountains, cross oceans, make pilgrimages to shrines, consult this guru, read this book and that book all in search of the one who is closer to us than we are to ourselves.  “In Him we live and move and have our being.”  God is the ground of my being.  God is in me as the song is in the singer and the dance is in the dancer.

Life is a journey of faith, not simply from the womb to the tomb, but from here to eternity, from God, with God and to God.  It is a journey through conflicts and failures, temptations and compromises, disappointments and surprises, joys and sorrows. It is a journey from Bethlehem to Egypt, to Nazareth, to the Jordan, through the desert, up Mount Tabor, down to the road to Jerusalem, to Gethsemane and Calvary and out to Mount Olivet and into the New Jerusalem.  What a journey!  And it is yours and mine!  Vayas con Dios!  Go with God!



                                                             FAITH

Salvation history is the history of faith.  The Old Covenant begins with the faith of Abraham, our father in faith.  “Abram put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.” (Gen.15:6)  The New Covenant begins with the faith of Mary, our mother in faith.  “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your will.” (Luke 1:38)  Our own personal covenant begins with our personal act of faith.  Faith is the first step on the road to salvation.

What is faith?  In general, we can define faith as the acceptance of the testimony of someone, whom we judge to be knowing and truthful, about something we do not know in another way.  We can see from this definition that faith is not restricted to religion.  Faith is necessary also on the natural level.  In fact, the whole fabric of society rests on a network of faith in our relationships with one another.  Learning itself begins with an act of faith in our parents and teachers. Our knowledge of history is gotten from books that were written not by eye witnesses, but by authors who got their facts from others, who perhaps themselves were not eye witnesses.  And the further back we go in history, the more we multiply acts of faith.  Consider current events. Every time we pick up a newspaper or magazine or listen to the news on radio, TV or the Internet we make an act of faith in the reporter that he is truthful and knows what he is talking about.  Our whole economy is built on faith, faith in our currency, checks, stocks and bonds, mortgages and promissory notes.  We have faith in the most outrageous things.  We believe in Utopia, Jimmy Jones of Guiana fame, David Koresh of Waco, Mr. Moon of the Moonies, we believe in capitalism, communism, atheism, consumerism, we believe in ouija boards, horoscopes, tea leaves, crystal balls and in satanic cults.  Human life even on the natural level is impossible without faith.  We should not be surprised then that faith is also necessary on the supernatural level.

It is evident also from our definition of faith that the immediate object of faith is not a truth but a person.  We first accept the person, and then we accept his testimony. The immediate object of Christian faith is the person of Jesus Christ, true God and true man.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  Jesus is the final and definitive revelation of God.  In Jesus, the medium is the message.  “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:16)  All the truths of Christianity are abstracted from the person and the life of Jesus.  The Church is the Mystical Body of Jesus.

The faith of Simon Peter was not in some abstract truth but in the person of Jesus. “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe that you are the holy one of God.” (John 6:68)  The faith of Paul also was firmly rooted in the person of Jesus.  “I have been crucified with Christ; yet, I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; in so far as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” (Gal.2:19-20)  The faith of the doubting Thomas was also in the person of Jesus, “My Lord and my God.”  Our faith also is in the person of Jesus Christ “yesterday, today and the same forever.”

Christian faith is not against reason.  If it is reasonable to accept the testimony of fallible, sinful human beings, as we must do to live a natural life, how much more reasonable it is to accept the testimony of Jesus, who is true God and true man, and who can neither deceive nor be deceived?  Faith is not against reason but it is above reason.  It gives us truths that we could never discover by reason alone.  And once we know these truths by faith, we still cannot understand how they are possible.

Faith and reason are not contradictory, they are complementary.  It has been said that “reason is the basis of faith and faith is reason in ecstasy.”  Faith is an enlargement of the horizons of the human mind.  Faith does not impose limits, it removes them.  Through faith we share in the knowledge of God.  Faith lifts us up, above the world of nature.  It ushers in a whole new world of reality.  A world that is quite different from the world we see with the eyes of the body.  With the eyes of faith we see a world that is full of beauty, truth and goodness.  A world in which God loves and cares for every one of His creatures, especially those made in His own image.

Faith is above reason but faith is reasonable in the sense that we must have a reason for our faith.  We must have signs of credibility.  Otherwise our faith could be a purely subjective illusion.  And we have more than sufficient reasons for our Christian faith. We have the testimony of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.  We have the testimony of countless martyrs who testified to Jesus with their blood.  We have the testimony of some of the most brilliant minds in human history who have professed faith in Jesus. We have the testimony of the Church which for some 2,000 years has withstood the vicious attacks from without and the corrupting influences from within.  Then there is the internal evidence of the Christian doctrine, with its sublime morality, and its promise of fulfillment that alone satisfies the insatiable aspirations of the human heart.

The signs of credibility are more than sufficient.  But they are not compelling; they do not force us to believe.  In the face of all the evidence we are still free, free to accept or reject it.  Faith is indissolubly both a free gift of God and a free acceptance of man.  God is not a tyrant.  He wants to be loved, not just endured.  God created us without our willing it, but He will not save us without our willing it.  On our part, faith is an act of the intellect commanded by the will.  And because it involves these highest faculties of man, it is most pleasing to God.

Since faith, on our part, is essentially a free act it is open to doubt.  Do you have doubts of faith?  Welcome to the club!  Welcome to the club whose membership includes the most learned theologians and the holiest of saints.  Faith and doubt are not mutually exclusive as some think.  They go together.   It is faith that is the cause of doubts.  If we did not have faith we would not have doubts.  It is only in the strong light of faith that we see the difficulties from which the doubts arise.  These doubts can become the catalyst for a deeper faith.  It was the doubt of Thomas that led to his deep act of faith in Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20-28)

Faith is not primarily in the feelings.  The act of the intellect which is commanded by the will may sometimes overflow into the feelings.  And when it does, everything is easy and a joy.  But sometimes it does not overflow into the feelings, and we have to go against our feelings.  And that is not easy.

Faith is not a one-shot deal.  It is not something made once and for all.  Some seem to think so.  They think if they make their decision for Jesus and are “born again” they are saved.  And they can never lose it.  That is not Catholic doctrine.  Faith can be lost.  To will once is not to will forever.  A fact that is quite evident in so many marriages today that end up in divorce.  On the wedding day they say, “I do.”  And they mean it.  Then later in the divorce court they say, “I won’t.”  And they really mean it.

Faith is not inherited.  No one is born a Catholic.  We are all human beings born in the state of Original Sin.  “Cradle Catholics” should never forget that they did not ask to be baptized and they did nothing to merit it.  And for the first few years of their life they lived on the faith of their parents.  It was hoped that during this time they would be assimilating the faith as their own.  But the time comes when they have to make their own personal commitment and stand on their own faith.  So eventually, everyone is a convert.  There is a time in our adult lives when we realize what it really means to be committed to Jesus.  Then we move from a nominal relationship to an experiential relationship with Jesus.  Then we are no longer Catholic by external association but by internal conviction.

How can we increase our faith?  Since faith is essentially an intimate personal relationship with Jesus, we can get some ideas from the way all personal relationships grow.  First of all, personal relationships grow through communication.  We communicate with Jesus through prayer.  Therefore, we should pray daily.  We should have a definite time and place for this rendezvous with Jesus.  We should pray in our own words, express our true feelings, and pray from the heart about those things that concern us.  Jesus told us to ask and we will receive, so we ask for an increase of faith.

Personal relationships grow also with the knowledge of the other.  We know about Jesus from the Gospels.  Whatever else we may read we should never lay aside the constant reading of the Gospels.  As St. Jerome said, “To be ignorant of the scripture is to be ignorant of Christ.” Personal relationships grow through frequent encounters with the other.  The sacraments are personal encounters with Jesus.  Therefore, we should receive the sacraments frequently, especially the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation.
Personal relationships grow by doing things together.  Faith and morality are inseparable.  Therefore, we should live our faith.  Reality is not divided into the sacred and the secular.  We are not friends of Jesus at one moment and then strangers at another.

Authentic personal relationships are not possessive and exclusive.  We should share Jesus with others.  We must not only be a disciple of Jesus but also an apostle.  Maturity of faith and apostolic zeal are inseparable.  We have the “pearl of great price” that others are looking for, even though they may not know it.  By sharing our faith with others we increase our own.

Every charism of faith is unique and irreplaceable.  We have four Gospels.  If one of the four was lost or never written at all, we would all be poorer for it.  The picture of Jesus is more complete, more accurate, and more attractive to more people, because there were four evangelists, each giving witness to Jesus in a unique way.  In the same way, each Christian gives a unique and irreplaceable witness to Jesus.  Each Christian gives a witness to “the Gospel according to me.”

Never before has Christian faith been as relevant as it is today.  We live in a mass media society in which we are constantly being bombarded with bits and pieces of information and misinformation.  Every value, even the most sacred, is questioned. All authority, parental, civil and religious is attacked. The media thrive on conflict. They give every side of every question.  In such a society how are we to know what it true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong?  Our only norm is our Christian faith.


HOPE

We begin to live the spiritual life by faith.  Soon, we meet difficulties which generate fear.  To conquer these fears and persevere in the spiritual life we need the virtue of hope.

Christian hope is not to be confused with natural hope which is so characteristic of our age.  Man’s confidence in himself, in his own talents, power and energy, and in the material resources at his command has accomplished many great things.  But it has also brought about great tragedies.  Christian hope is much more realistic.  It is built on the realization of our weakness, the limitations of human nature, the manifold difficulties of human life and the absolute necessity of the grace of God. 

The Christian’s hope is not in himself but in Jesus Christ.   When we look at ourselves and at the difficulties of the present state of the world, we get discouraged.  But when we turn to Jesus we are reassured.  “In the world you will have trouble, but be brave I have conquered the world.”

Hope is not only necessary for our salvation, it is our very life.  We were created by God.  God continually holds us in existence and must cooperate in every action we perform.  “In him we live and move and have our being.”  We cannot fly from him, we cannot hide from him and we cannot exist without him.  What can we do if we do not hope in him? 

The lack of hope has wrecked more promising careers than anything else.  We are stumbling and crawling on the road to salvation when we could be running in the way of perfection, if only we were shod with the virtue of hope.  How many great things are left undone because of the lack of hope?

Virtue stands in the middle.  Hope is a good example of that truth.  The practice of hope is like walking on a tight rope.  A fall on either side could be fatal.  On one side of the virtue of hope is despair, and on the other side is presumption.  A consideration of these two sins will illustrate the true nature of Christian hope.

Despair is the total loss of hope.  It is a sin which is on the increase today.  The number of suicides is increasing daily.  What is more alarming is the temptation to despair on the part of so many others.  “To be or not to be?”  That is the question many people are asking themselves.  Is it really worth living?  Human life is not an adventure for a coward.   It is impossible without hope.  Someone who does not have hope has nothing to live for and will find it difficult to avoid sin.  And with each sin comes further despair.  God’s mercy can save him, but he no longer has hope in God.

It is interesting to note that the deification of man and the increase in despair are found together.  The reason is that they are closely related.  One is the cause of the other.  If a man makes a god of himself then when his situation becomes intolerable and he can no longer cope with life, there is nothing left for him but to despair.   Playing God is the root of despair.

Perhaps we have never been tempted to this total loss of hope in God, but we are all guilty of a partial loss of hope in God which manifests itself in worry.
Worry is really a misuse of two wonderful faculties God has given us to make life more enjoyable.  God has given us a memory so that we could reach back into memory’s storeroom and relive and re-enjoy the wonderful moments of success and happiness in our past lives.  Unfortunately we use the memory more often to call forth moments of sorrow and failure and in their remembrance re-suffer and regret them. 

God has also given us an imagination which enables us to cooperate with Him in the development of the world.  Every discovery, every invention, every piece of art is the fruit of someone’s imagination.  Without imagination the world would indeed be dull.  Unfortunately, we use our imagination more often to project future possible difficulties and trials and in their anticipation suffer more than in the reality.

We are all historians and prophets.  We live in the past and in the future when the only reality is the present.  We would all worry less if we realized how unreasonable it is.  Worry is a luxury no one can afford.  The cost is too high.  It robs us of our sleep, takes away our appetite, drains off energy and can lead to a complete breakdown of health.

What are the remedies for worry?  The first is to live in the present moment. This is the only reality.  Spiritual writers speak of the sacrament of the present moment.  Each moment is a sacrament, a visible sign instituted by Christ to give grace.  Every moment of our life is a sensible sign coming to us in the concrete circumstances in which we find ourselves.  Every moment of our life comes from Christ.  And it brings with it grace.  And this is the important point.  It bring with it grace, not for yesterday, not for tomorrow, but for this present moment.  Many breakdowns are the result of trying to carry yesterday’s load and tomorrow’s possible load on today’s grace.  It cannot be done.

God knows human nature.  He created it.  And in His wisdom and mercy He knows better than to give His graces all at one time.  He metes them out daily over the course of our lives.  In the Sacrament of Matrimony, for example, the contracting parties do not receive on their wedding day all of the graces flowing from that sacrament.  They would be squandered long before the end of the honeymoon.  The grace they receive on their wedding day gives them the title to other graces which will be given when they are needed.

Yesterday is history.  We commit it to the mercy of God.  Past sins, if they have been confessed, are forgiven.  These past sins can be the occasion of great graces.  Jesus said that to whom little is forgiven loves little.  Would the good thief on the cross have received the promise of paradise if he had not been a criminal who was crucified with Christ? 

Tomorrow may never come.  We commit it to the Providence of God.  God rules the world and everything in it.  Nothing happens by chance. Everything that happens in this world is either positively willed by God or at least permitted by God.   And to those who love Him all of these things, the evil as well as the good, work together for good.  We commit the past to the mercy of God and the future to the Providence of God.  And we have the grace of God for today.  By living today we make a beautiful dream of the past and a wonderful hope for the future.

On one side of the virtue of hope is despair and on the other side is presumption.  Whereas despair is a total loss of hope, presumption is based on a false hope.  The one who ends up in despair started out to do it all himself; the one who ends up in presumption started out by expecting God to do it all.  The unemployed laborer who sits at home and prays that God will send him a job without his searching for one is guilty of presumption.  In itself presumption is not as serious a sin as despair.  For the one who is presumptuous does not deny the mercy of God.  In fact, he relies on God’s mercy to the total exclusion of His justice.

Without God we can do nothing.  It is equally true that without us God will do nothing.  St. Augustine said that God who created us without our willing it will not save us without our willing it.  The virtue of hope does not make human effort superfluous, it demands it.  So we must work as if it all depends on us and hope as if it all depends upon God.  To try when there is little hope is to risk failure.  Not to try at all is to guarantee it.


LOVE
Love has many different meanings.  In marriage it means everything.  In tennis love means nothing.  In the rest of life it can mean anything.  We love oranges, pizza and football.  Love is the most misunderstood word in the language.  Love is the answer.  But love is also the problem.  What is Christian love?  Let us begin by considering what it is not.
Love is not like.  What is it that makes us like one person and dislike another?  Whatever it is, it is something over which we have little or no control.  Love is in the will.  Since we have a free will we can love those we dislike, even our enemies.  We can love them because they are made in the image of God and have an intrinsic core goodness that nothing can destroy.  We can distinguish between the person and the person’s actions.  Opinions and actions are to be judged, but the person is to be loved.  We may hate the sin but love the sinner.  No one hated sin more than Jesus and no one ever loved the sinner as much as he did.
Love is not justice.  Justice is that moral virtue which makes us give to others what they have a right to.  Justice forms the infrastructure of love.  Love begins where justice ends.  Once we have given to others what they have a right to, then we are in the field of love.
Love is not found in words.  Love is found in deeds.  “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”  (Matt.7:21)  Love is authenticated by the observance of the commandments. “If you love me keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)  Loving deeds are the fruit and the proof of love.  St. Augustine said, “Love, and do what you will.”  What he meant was that if we truly love we will do what is right.
Love does not mean an absence of conflict.  Real conflicts do not destroy love. They lead to clarification and strength.  Each person is unique and sees reality in a unique way.  So love is a constant challenge; a working together whether there is harmony or conflict, joy or sadness.  It is a growing together.  It would be a rather dull world if everyone agreed on everything.  To disagree is not to hate.  Love makes it possible to disagree without being disagreeable. 
It is not possible for anyone to give an absolutely objective view of anything.  Our view is colored by our personality and our experience.  Each person is a mystery, a mystery even to themselves.  A mystery only God knows.  We should respect this mystery and not try to destroy it with a stereotype.  How wise is the advice of St. Augustine, “In necessary things let us have unity, in doubtful things let us have liberty, but in all things let us have charity.”
Love does not mean that you never have to say you are sorry.  Reconciliation is an important part of human love.  Human nature is such that people cannot love one another very long without having to forgive and be forgiven.  Reconciliation is the catalyst that causes love to mature and grow.  That is what Jesus meant when he said to whom little is forgiven loves little.  We have a wonderful example of this in the parable of the prodigal son.  The young man knew his father loved him.  But it was not until he had squandered all of his inheritance in dissolute living and then received the complete forgiveness of his father that he realized how much his father really did love him.  It was an experience the elder son would never have.  Forgiveness is not the “reprieve of a judge, but the embrace of a lover.”
Love is not cheap.  It costs to be a lover.  The language of love is sacrifice.  Never has this language of love been spoken so convincingly and as efficaciously as our Lord spoke it from the cross on Calvary.  The crucifix with the wounded heart will ever be the symbol and the proof of love.  If you want to know how much you love someone just ask yourself how much you are will to sacrifice, not of your possessions, but of yourself for that person.
We have been chipping away at the concept of love to remove its false meanings, to see what it is not.  We have arrived now at a definition of Christian love.  It is a definition not in words but in flesh, an incarnation: Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is the fullest expression both of the love of God for us and the fullest expression of the human response to that love.
We realize now that there is only one love, and that is the love of God.  Before creation there was only God.  This God is love.  God freely wills to share this love with others.  This infinite love passed through the prism of creation is refracted into an infinite number of finite acts of love, each unique, unrepeatable and indispensable.
We are not Creators.  We are only receivers and transmitters of the love of God, “poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us.”  We open our hearts to receive this love, let it permeate our being and then filter through us, radiate from us and overflow from us to others.
Because we are finite acts of the love of God, our deepest need is to love and be loved.  To help us realize and fill this need God has commanded us to love.  “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and the greatest commandment.  The second is like it.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”  (Matt.22:37-40)
Jesus made love the distinguishing mark of his followers.  “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) There is an indissoluble bond between the love of God and the love of the neighbor.  You cannot have one without the other.  “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar, for whoever does not love the brother he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)  The converse is equally true.  We cannot love the neighbor without the love of God.  Of course, we can love those who love us without a love of God, even pagans do this.  But we cannot love the neighbor who is our enemy without the love of God.
The love of God and the love of the neighbor balance one another.  Whenever one is cut away from the other it becomes a caricature of itself.  Love of God without the love of the neighbor becomes pride and haughtiness.  How many cruelties have been committed in the name of God!  How many wars are fought over religion!  The love of the neighbor without the love of God becomes sentimental philanthropy, secular humanism.
It is not easy to maintain the balance between these two loves.  The intersection of the love of God (the vertical) with the love of the neighbor (the horizontal) forms a cross.  And this is the crux of the matter.  It is relatively easy to love only God, or to love only the neighbor.  But it is difficult to do both.  The cross also illustrates the relationship between the love of God and the love of the neighbor.  In the cross it is the vertical beam that upholds the horizontal beam.  Take away the vertical beam and the horizontal beam falls to the ground to rot.  Take away the love of God and the love of the neighbor rots.
Besides the love of God and the love of the neighbor there is a third love which is very important and often forgotten.  And that is the love of self.  In fact, the love of self is the norm for the love of the neighbor.  We are to love our neighbor as ourselves.  If I do not love myself I am not able to love my neighbor.  God loved me into existence.  I am a gift of God.  What gross ingratitude it is to refuse to accept this gift.  And what a dishonor to God it is!  So I accept myself, I love myself, I affirm myself and I celebrate myself, because in so doing I am accepting, loving, affirming and celebrating God.
Nothing is more practical and relevant than love.  Our deepest need is to love and be loved.  Without love we lose our will to live.  Life becomes a dull, dreary, monotonous grind without purpose or meaning.  What we need and what the world needs now is love, real Christian love.

So we see that the theological virtues of faith, hope and love constitute a person a Christian and supply the inner dynamic from which flows every authentically Christian action.  For the Christian, life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived in faith, hope and love.

Faith, hope and love are called theological virtues because they have God as their immediate object.  These virtues enable us to have an intimate, personal relationship with God.  They are mentally distinguishable but practically inseparable.  We can distinguish one from another.  But in the concrete world of reality it is hardly possible to have one without the others, at least in some degree. In other words, Christian faith is a loving, trusting faith.

These three virtues create a virtuous circle which is the inner dynamic of a Christian.  Faith generates hope.  Faith and hope generate love.  And love produces loving actions which reinforce and strengthen faith and hope.  The loving actions also are a sign that we have the loving, trusting love that saves.

God is omnipresent and loves us unconditionally.  This is a given, always present and always available.  We make them our own, and put limits on them, by the intensity of our faith, hope and love. Whatever is received is received according to the disposition of the recipient.  This is also the lesson of the sower and the seed. It is the quality of the soil that determines the quantity and the quality of the produce.  So we see the importance of these theological virtues of faith, hope and love.




                                                   DISCIPLE

“It was at Antioch that the disciples of Jesus were first called Christians”
(Acts 11:26)  The early Christians were known as disciples of Jesus.  To be a Christian then is not just to know about Jesus.  Knowledge about Jesus can be found in the Bible.  But the Bible is not a Christian.  Knowledge about Jesus an also be found in the Catechism.  But the Catechism is not a Christian.  All the knowledge we have about Jesus can be put on a silicon chip.  But a silicon chip is not a Christian.

To be a Christian is to be a disciple of Jesus, to be committed to Jesus.  Since Jesus is true God, the commitment to Jesus is the total commitment of the First Commandment.  “You shall love Jesus with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”  St. Paul expressed this commitment to Jesus very dramatically, “Life to me, of course, is Christ.” (Phil.1:21)  “For I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish, if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him.” (Phil. 3:9)  “I have been crucified with Christ, and I live now, not my own life, but the life of Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20)

Does this commitment to Jesus seem too radical?  Well consider this.  God has given me an intellect to know and a free will to choose.  And God honors the exercise of free will.  What we freely choose we can have.  And we must choose.  Free will is not only our greatest dignity; it is also our most awesome responsibility.

Terrified by this responsibility some people try to avoid committing themselves.  They try to “play it cool,” to “hang loose” and not to commit themselves to anyone or to anything.  Others, afraid to live their own lives, live vicariously.  They watch other people live on the TV, in the movies, at the ball park, or in books. 

But life is not a spectator sport.  We must participate.  We must choose.  “Not to decide is to decide.”  It is possible to abstain from choosing only by the refusal to make acts of the will, which refusal is itself an act of the will.  Not to choose is to choose the worse possibility, which is to commit ourselves to nothing.

Whether we realize it or not we are committed.  So the question is not “Am I committed?”  The question rather is, “To whom or to what am I committed?”  And when we consider the alternatives to the commitment to Jesus, we realize what a privilege and blessing it is to be a Christian, and to be committed to Jesus.  What are the alternatives to Jesus; if not Jesus what?

The first possibility, of course, is myself.  I could be committed to myself.  Many people are.  Preoccupation with self is one of the characteristics of the culture in which we live.  Today there is a multiplication of self-awareness self-improvement, self-fulfillment programs all promising to bring perfection, maturity and happiness.  This do-it-yourself fad is based on the belief in the unlimited perfectibility of human nature by its own efforts.

If I am not committed to myself I could be committed to another merely human person.  It could be the leader of a religious cult, a military leader, or a superstar of TV, the movies or the sports world.  If not to an individual person, I could be committed to a group of persons, the survival of which is considered to be the ultimate good.  As Hitler once said, “Life is the nation.  The individual must die anyway.  Beyond the life of the individual is the life of the nation.”  Many people have made the total commitment to the classless society of atheistic communism.

I could be committed not to myself, or a human person or a group of human persons but to a thing – anything - my thing - my work, my talent, my career.  It could be wealth, health, fame, pleasure, prestige, sex, alcohol or drugs.

Or I could be committed to the absurd.  The absurd has been defined as the “coming together of man’s insatiable desire for life to make sense, and life’s inexorable refusal to do so.”  Or as Shakespeare expressed it, “Life is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

To whom am I committed?  When we realize that we are committed and then consider the alternatives to commitment to Jesus, we see the wisdom in the words of Simon Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life, and we have come to know that you are the Son of God.”

This commitment to Jesus is not the negative caricature which thinks that we should be willing to suffer hell here in order to avoid hell hereafter.  What a caricature of Christianity!  What a gross injustice to God!  This commitment to Jesus is a positive affirmation of life.  “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.”  Firmly committed to Jesus we are free with the freedom of the children of God.

Commitment to Jesus brings with it security.  Everyone today is looking for security.  We seek security in wealth, health, weapons, laws, insurance, crystal balls and in the stars.  But there is no real security in this life.  Life is a risk, an adventure.  The only security possible in this life is the inner security that comes from commitment to Jesus.  We do not know what tomorrow holds but we know Who holds tomorrow.

The commitment to Jesus is the greatest prescription ever given for physical, mental and spiritual health and happiness, here as well as hereafter.  It structures our lives, unifies our day to day decisions and brings with it a sense of fulfillment.  It is not only expressive of the person I am, it is also creative of the person I will become. 

This fulfillment, however, involves a paradox.  The paradox is that we find our life by losing it.  But we foolishly think that we are fulfilling ourselves by self-gratification and self-indulgence, by receiving and possessing.  The opposite is true.  We fulfill ourselves by giving and sharing, by going out of ourselves in the love and service of our neighbor.

This paradox is expressed beautifully in the prayer of St. Francis, “Lord, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive, in pardoning that we are pardoned, and in dying that we are born to eternal life.”  Isn’t it strange that we can say this prayer so often, and sing it so beautifully, and still not get the point?

How can we know to whom or to what we are committed?  Well, what would you hate most to lose?  Or what do you spend most of your time, talents and treasure on?  Where is your heart?  Where your heart is there is your treasure.

Finally, this total commitment to Jesus is not a one-shot deal.  It is the work of a lifetime.  To will once is not to will forever.  We must recommit ourselves everyday.  Perhaps, only at the end of our life will we be able to say with St. Paul, “I live now, not my own life, but the life of Christ who lives in me.”



APOSTLE

The Good News is not something you can keep to yourself.  To experience the Good News is to experience the urge to share it.  Discipleship and apostolate go together.  They are two sides of the same coin.  You cannot have one without the other.  Christian faith is indissolubly both an acceptance and a sharing of the revelation of Jesus.

God deals with us personally and individually, but not as isolated individuals.  He deals with us as members of a community, the “chosen people,” the “people of God.”  God wants everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.  This is evident in the Scriptures.  God dealt with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not as isolated individuals but as patriarchs of the “chosen people.”  God made a covenant at Sinai not just with Moses but with all of the Israelites.  Jesus came not just for Mary but for all of us. Jesus taught his disciples to pray not my Father but Our Father.

The gifts of God are meant for all.  Jesus told his disciples, “The gift you have received, give as a gift.”  The gift is meant primarily for the one who receives it.  But it does not stop there, it must overflow to others.  Otherwise, it will be locked up within us and stagnate.  If we share it with others, it remains alive and dynamic.  This is the strange math of Christianity we add by subtracting and multiply by dividing.  This is the paradox of Christianity we find our life by losing it.

Jesus first called his followers as disciples, “Come follow me.”  Then after training them he sent them out as apostles, “Go into the whole world and make disciples of all nations…”  Discipleship and apostolate, this is the intake and the output, the ebb and the flow, the centripetal and centrifugal forces, repeated over and over again, that supply the dynamic of Christianity.

When we think of the apostolate we think of action, of going and of doing.  Influenced by the achievement-oriented culture in which we live we think of the indefatigable labors of St. Paul and St. Francis Xavier.  But strange as it may seem, the first, the last and perhaps the most effective apostolate we will ever exercise is the apostolate of being, of being me, of being happy to be me.

I had absolutely nothing to do with my existence.  I did not choose to be, I did not choose to be me.  How could I choose when I wasn’t?  My parents didn’t choose me either.  They may have wanted a child but they did not know who I would be.  But God knew exactly who I would be.  And God wanted me.  “You have not chosen me; I have chosen you.”  God chose me out of an infinite number of possible beings, beings that possibly could be.   The only logical conclusion from these facts of life is that the will of God for me, my mission, my apostolate is to be me, to be happy to be me.

Being me means first of all to accept the gift of existence, to accept life from the womb to the tomb.  This is not easy.  As we grow older the “intimations of mortality” become more frequent and much more impressive.  “To be or not to be?”  That is the question many people ask themselves every day.  “Is it really worthwhile to go on?”  Suicide and euthanasia are serious national problems today.

Being me also means to accept the human condition with its “transcendental neediness” and personal interdependence; to accept the fact that I am not absolutely self-autonomous.  As an effect of original sin I do not have the gift of integrity.  I do not have perfect control over all of my faculties.  Each faculty goes out after its own proper object heedless of the other.  What control I do have is gained only with a lot of discipline.  And discipline is what I need most and want least.  I have a free will which is my greatest dignity but also my most awesome responsibility.  I must think for myself, take the initiative and assume responsibility for my personal actions.  I must accept the fact that I am a sinner, actually in the past, potentially in the future and always carrying this treasure in a very fragile vessel.

Being me means to accept my particular, unique, unrepeatable edition of the human condition.  There is not now, there never has been, and there never will be another me. (And everyone else is glad of it!   So I can make other people happy just by being me.)
Since I am one of a kind, I am not inferior or superior to anyone.  I give God a praise, honor, love and service that no one else can give.  Therefore, I am indispensable.
It is very important to have this positive self-image because psychologists tell us that the most vicious disease of normal people is a negative self-image, an inferiority complex. And it is one of the greatest obstacles of the apostolate.

It is not easy to be me because there are powerful forces, both interior and exterior, that are trying to make me someone else. The exterior forces are from the media that are beamed at us 24/7 telling us that if we wish to be accepted we should wear this type of clothing, drink this beverage, drive this car and act and believe as they do.  They tempt us to buy what we don’t need, with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.  Peer pressure is not just for the young we all want to belong to be accepted.  It is not easy to be counter-cultural.  If we depend on the acceptance and approval of others what happens if they do not give us their stamp of approval?

Then there are the interior forces within us, envy, jealousy, the desire to be popular, to be like someone else.  We are social beings who live together in society so it is natural for us to compare ourselves with others.  Unfortunately we compare our total self only to their exterior self, the self that we see.  Since we do not know their total self we foolishly think that they are superior.

Finally, the apostolate of being means to be happy to be me.  This is the will of God for me and there is nothing more perfect that I can do than the will of God.  I am happy to be me because God loves me not as I could be or should be but as I am with all of the physical warts, psychological quirks and spiritual infidelities.  And he loves me unconditionally with a love I cannot earn or ever be worthy of. 

I am happy to be me because I am a tabernacle of the Blessed Trinity Who dwells within me as the ground of my being.  “In him we live and move and have our being.”  I am really We and We are mostly God.  I am happy to be me because this is the greatest prescription ever given for physical, mental and spiritual happiness here as well as hereafter.  I am happy to be me because this is the greatest way that I can express my gratitude to God for the gift of myself.  I am happy to be me because, outside the Sacrifice of the Mass which has an infinite value, the greatest honor and praise I can give God is to be happy, to be happy to be me.  “God loves a cheerful giver.”

There is only one love, the love of God.  We are not creators we are only receivers and transmitters of the love of God.  We simply accept this love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us.  We let this love permeate our being, radiate from us and overflow to others.  This love of God working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine and, a fortiori, do. 

Whether we live a long life or a short one, whether we are sickly or healthy, whether we are rich or poor, learned or uneducated, whether we accomplish much or little in this world, is only incidental.  What is important is that I make the love of God visible in me, that I give the love of God credibility so that others may believe, hope and love and be happy to be themselves.

Finally, I am happy to be me because this is the greatest weapon I have in the apostolate.  The apostolate of being happy to be me is the first apostolate I exercised, it is the last apostolate I will exercise and it is always the most effective apostolate I exercise.  If I want to be an apostle I don’t have to go on the missions, I don’t have to build churches and schools; I don’t have to preach missions and give retreats or write books and edit magazines.  All I have to do it to be me and to be happy to be me.  And if I want to promote vocations to serve God in the priesthood or religious life all I have to do is to be happy, happy to be me.

Everyone is seeking happiness.  This is confirmed by their statements that go right to the heart of the matter.  “What you are shouts so loud I can’t hear what you are saying.”  “Don’t tell me what Jesus can do for me you show me what Jesus has done for you.”  “If you want us to believe in your redeemer, look a little more redeemed.”  So when they do meet someone who is genuinely happy they want to know what makes him happy.  And when they discover that it is Jesus they want to be a Christian, and perhaps even to be a priest or a religious.

Lord, it is good to be me.  I am happy to be me.  I accept myself, I love myself, I affirm myself and I celebrate myself because in so doing I am accepting, loving, affirming and celebrating You.


DEATH 

“Remember man that you are dust and into dust you will return.”  We are all incurable optimists when it comes to death.  It is always someone else who dies.  We never think of our own death.  But whether we think of it or not it is a fact that one day every one of us must die.  And we die only once; there is no second chance.  Death finalizes the time of merit or demerit.

While there is nothing more certain that the fact of death, there is nothing more uncertain than the circumstances of death.  When, where, how will I die?  Only God knows.  When will I die?  It may be sooner than I think.  Where will I die?  Will it be at home, at my work place, on the highway, on the golf course?  Will it be in a place where I would not want to be caught dead?  How will I die?  Will it be after a prolonged illness, will it be suddenly, will it be in sleep, in an accident?  Never have the circumstance of death been as uncertain as they are today in this age of high speed and violence, crime and terrorism.

Perhaps we never think of our own death because of fear.  Are you afraid to die?  Welcome to the club, welcome to the human race.  Fear of death is natural and normal.  It is a built-in protection for life, making us cautious in the face of dangers.  We fear death because we fear the unknown; we have never been through this before and have no idea of what it is like.  But death is really a blessing.  Depth psychologists tell us that immortality under human conditions would be intolerable.  Old people often ask, “Is it a sin to ask God to take you?”  The answer is no, provided that you are willing to remain if that is God’s will for you.

Death is the great teacher.  The first and perhaps the most important lesson that death teaches us is to be prepared.  Now is the acceptable time; now is the time of salvation.  Sometime is no time and tomorrow never comes.  Now we have the time, the opportunity and the grace.  We walk this way only once.  Do now what you would wish to have done at the hour of death.  Do now what you must do at the hour of death.  Do now what perhaps you will not be able to do at the hour of death.

Don’t wait for a death bed conversion and don’t depend on it.  Sudden death is very common today.  Even a prolonged death today does not offer much opportunity for preparation.  Many of the pain relieving drugs leave the patient listless, debilitated and even unconscious for hours, days, and even weeks before death.  A human vegetable doesn’t have much chance for conversion.

Another lesson death teaches us is that life is a personal, individual, do-it-yourself affair.
At the judgment each one must give an account of his own personal stewardship.  From time to time we get a glimpse of this fact.  It may come to us on the night before a serious operation when we cannot sleep, or it may come to us when we have to make a critical decision in life. We may consult with others but the final decision and responsibility is our own.  In death it comes to us with a shattering realization.  Relatives and friends may be all around the death bed but we make the journey into the unknown alone.

Death also teaches us the real values in life.  So often we mistake the means for the end.  Death puts life in focus.  “The glories of our blood and state are shadows not substantial things; there is no armor against fate; death lays his icy hand on kings; scepter and crown must tumble down and in the dust be equal made with the poor crooked scythe and spade…”  (James Shirley)  “The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, and all that beauty, all that wealth ever gave, await the inevitable hour; the paths of glory lead but to the grace.”  (Grey’s Elegy)  “You never see a U-Haul hitched to a hearse.”  Death teaches us that the really real is God.

Death teaches us also how foolish human respect is; how foolish to make an idol of human beings; to be fearful of what they say or think about us.  How much time and energy is wasted in trying to please other people.

Death teaches us also the meaning of success in life.  What does it mean to be a success in life; not for 20, 30, 40 years but for all eternity; not success in business, in medicine, in politics, in law, in politics but success in the one thing necessary, our salvation?  “What does it profit if you gain the whole world and lose yourself in the process?”

Death teaches us the value of being a Catholic.  It is not easy to live as a Catholic but what a joy it is to die as a Catholic, fortified with the Sacraments and with Mary and the whole Communion of Saints praying for us.

Death is not the end; it is only the beginning.  Death is the door to life.  It is not so much life after death as it is life through death.  That is what is meant by the Paschal Mystery, the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Human life is just one paschal mystery after another spiraling up to the final passion, death and resurrection into eternal life.


      RESURRECTION


THE MOST POWERFUL DRIVE IN EVERY HUMAN BEING IS FOR SELF-PRESERVATION.  Self-preservation is the first law of human nature.  With all of the fibers of our being we want to live.  Yet, it is an inevitable fact of human life that we must die.  And there is the great dilemma of human life.

Down through the ages men have tried to resolve this dilemma.  We all know the story off how Ponce de Leon came to Florida in search of the fountain of youth, a fountain whose crystal clear, cool, sparkling water would indefinitely prolong human life.  In our own day medical science has exhausted the ingenuity of science and technology in trying to prolong human life. And they have been eminently successful.  So successful have they been that geriatrics, the care of the aged, has become a serious national problem.  More and more people are living to be older and older.  How do you care for these very old people?  But great as these modern, magical, medical drugs may be, they only push back a few weeks, a few months, they do not take away the inevitable hour of death.  And so the dilemma remains: with all the fibers of our being we want to live, yet we know we have to die.

THE RESURRECTION GIVES US THE ANSWER TO THAT DILEMMA.  Jesus came on earth not to tell us that we are going to suffer and die.  We find that out sooner or later for ourselves. Jesus came to tell us that we are going to live.  “I am come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.”  Jesus came not just to tell us, he came to prove it.  He became one of us, suffered and died on the cross, and on the third day rose from the dead.  And he has promised that whoever believes in him will rise and live forever. “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and whoever believes in me will never die.”

THE RESURRECTION IS THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL. “If Christ be not risen, vain is your faith, you are still in your sins, and those who have died in Christ have perished...If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.”  1 Cor.15:17-19   Eternal life, this is the name of the game.  Everything else is simply a preparation. 

Eternal life does not begin at death.  It begins at Baptism.  Through the sacrament of Baptism we participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Paul writes to the Romans, “Are you not aware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Through baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life.”  That is why Baptism has such a central role in the Easter Liturgy, and why we baptize our Catechumens and renew our own Baptismal promises at Easter.

The joy and the power of the resurrection is not to be found in the empty tomb or in the historical fact of the resurrection but in a PERSONAL ENCOUNTER WITH THE RISEN CHRIST.  Such was the experience of Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Thomas and Paul.  And so it is with us.  The joy and power of the resurrection is to be found in a personal encounter with the Risen Jesus in the Eucharist, in the neighbor, in the events of our lives and deep within our hearts.

This personal encounter with the Risen Jesus does not mean, of course, that all of a sudden we will have it all together.  This encounter does not change human nature.  We will still be a bundle of contradictions. And it does not change the world either.  There will still be war, violence, injustice and evil in the world.  We discipline ourselves and work for peace and justice in the world.  But we know that our best efforts will fail.  The power of the resurrection does not change these things it transcends them.  It enables us to have peace in the midst of war, joy in the midst of sorrow and life in the midst of death.  As St. Augustine said, “We are a resurrection people and our song is Alleluia!”

The resurrection teaches us that this life is not the ultimate value.  “Lord, teach me not to hold on to this life too tightly. Teach me to take it as a gift; to enjoy it and cherish it while I have it; and to let go gracefully and gratefully when the time comes.  The gift of this life is great, but the Giver is greater still.  You are the Giver and in you is a life that never ends.”



CATHOLICISM


Catholicism is often regarded as a burden; a burden that people more or less willingly suffer here in order to avoid a much heavier burden hereafter.  This is a caricature of
Catholicism and a gross injustice to God.  Catholicism is, in fact, the greatest prescription ever given for physical, mental and spiritual health, and happiness here as well as hereafter.

For a long time medicine has known about the psychosomatic: how the body and mind are interdependent.  What happens in one affects the other.  Catholicism teaches us that there is a third element, the spirit.  The pneumapsychosomatic, the spirit, the mind and the body, is called the medicine of the person, or holistic medicine.  We are realizing more and more that the spirit affects the mind and the body, and the mind and the body effect the spirit.  Someone has said that the physician who does not take into consideration the spirituality of his patient is a veterinarian, an animal doctor.  More and more we are becoming aware of the danger of reducing human problems to either the body, or the mind, or the spirit.  Human problems must be solved in a holistic way, in body, mind and spirit.

Catholicism also teaches us the importance of preventive medicine.  We have had unreal expectations of expensive late-stage intervention and neglected the relatively cheap early-stage prevention.  We spend too much time, money and technology on crises-management, when many of these crises could have been prevented by a simple Christian life-style.

The Lord said that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.  In other words, God has commanded us to do only those things which are necessary for our well being.  As we heard so often in the moral theology class, good moral is good medicine.
Think of a new car owner’s manual.  Those who made the car know what it needs to operate efficiently.  So they give you these instructions not to limit the use of the car but to get the most out of it.  The owner, of course, is free to disregard these instructions, but he will not get very far.  God will forgive our sins but our nervous system will not.

The body plays a very important role in the spiritual as well as the intellectual life of a person.  The body is the source of all of our knowledge, even the most abstract and spiritual.  Nothing is in the mind that did not come in originally from one of the five senses.  The body is also the instrument of communication of knowledge.  People cannot read our mind.  So we must communicate our thoughts to them through the faculty of speech and body language.  We also receive grace through the body.  The Sacraments, the channels of grace, are all received through the body.  The body, as St. Paul tells us, is also the temple of the Holy Spirit.  We pray, worship, witness to our faith and exercise the apostolate through the body.  The body is also the instrument of pleasure and pain, and the very vehicle of life.  We live as long and as well as the body supports the spirit.  The body is a remarkably complex mechanism which has a resident physician and a built-in pharmacy, which we call the immune system.

So Catholics have a great respect for the body.  They practice preventive medicine by taking food and drink in moderation, exercising regularly and getting sufficient rest.
During the seasons of Advent and Lent they fast and abstain from meat.  Their life-style is simple and wholesome.

Now let us consider the mind.  Jesus Christ is the greatest psychologist and psychiatrist ever to walk the face of this earth.  We shouldn’t be surprised at this.  He who made the human psyche surely knows how it works.  Most of the laws for mental health can be found in the Bible.  Isn’t it strange that we can be unimpressed when we hear these truths from the pulpit and then be so impressed when we hear the same thing from scientists?

Doctors tell us that the vast majority of our illnesses are emotionally induced.  That is they are caused by our emotions.  An emotion is a physical effect of a mental attitude.  So the Catholic avoids these emotionally induced illnesses by having the right attitude.  The right attitude is recommended by St. Paul to the Philippians, “Let that mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”  (Phil.2:5)

Now let us look at the health of the spirit.  Dr. Victor Frankl, the psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust, writes in his book, “The Search of Meaning in Life,” that the most powerful drive in man is the drive for a meaning in life.  He who has a WHY to live for, can endure any HOW.  His logotherapy is the therapy, the healing, that comes from having a meaning and purpose in life.

For the Catholic, the logos, the Word, is Jesus Christ.  Christotherapy then is the healing that comes from the meaning that Jesus gives to our lives.  Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is the object of his faith, hope and love.  Jesus not only gives meaning to our lives but He also gives us the power to live it.  He is the source of our peace, joy and security.
We don’t know what tomorrow holds but we know WHO holds tomorrow.

Much sickness comes from worry; worry about the past and about the future.  The present moment is the only reality.  Yesterday is history and tomorrow may never come.  The
Catholic has contrition for the past, and plans for the future, but he does not worry about either.  He commits the past to the mercy of God, the future to Divine Providence and has the grace of God for the present moment.  By living today he makes a beautiful dream of the past and a wonderful hope for the future.

Being a Catholic, of course, does not mean that you will never get sick. We are not immune to germs, bacteria and viruses.  We are not exempt from accidents, or from being a victim of crime.  Our bodily organs do wear out.  And the older we get the more frequent and more impressive are these intimations of mortality.

But Catholicism is also the best prescription for these illnesses.  There are the Sacraments: the Anointing of the Sick, the Rite of Reconciliation, and the Eucharist.  Just as the contemporaries of Jesus sought him out to be healed we too have the same opportunity.  The Sacraments are the actions of Jesus.  The priest is simply an instrument.  He uses the very words of Jesus: “I baptize you...I absolve you...This is My Body...My Blood.”  If someone could be cured by the touch of Jesus’ hand, or simply by touching the hem of his garment, what healing must take place when we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist?

Love is the greatest healer of all.  It heals both the one who gives it and the one who receives it.  The essence of Catholicism is love.  Jesus tells us that the whole law and prophets is summed up in the love of God and the love of the neighbor and the love of self.

But in spite of all the preventive and remedial power of Catholicism we all have to die.
And that is the great human dilemma.  With all the fibers of our being we want to live and yet we know we have to die. Catholicism also gives us the answer to that dilemma in the resurrection.
Catholicism is the greatest prescription ever given for physical, mental and spiritual health and happiness here as well as hereafter.  And if we all did live as Catholics we would do more for the National Health and for Medicare and Medicaid than anything that will ever come out of Congress or out of medical science and technology.