I had a good friend (he died a few years ago) with whom I talked several times a week, and our conversations were mostly about living the Catholic faith – how do we incorporate its truth and beauty in our daily lives? What works, and what doesn’t? How do we be faithful Catholics, while weathering the tumult and uncertainty looming above us every day?
The chats were edifying to both of us. He was a convert, so more often than not, his questions or concerns precipitated our discussions, and we worked out answers, remaining tethered to the Church while venturing into the seas of practical application. The beauty of our faith is that we aren’t floating in uncharted waters. The words of Christ, the examples of the saints, the writings of the popes and wisdom of the Magisterium – all combine to provide ballast, balance and a right rudder, so that while the winds and waves of worldliness assail us, there exists a spirit of serenity and peace…as long as we stay in the boat!
One day my friend said, “You know, sometimes I ask God why he permitted the actions of a few – and that’s a relative “few” – to screw up the lives of so many?” We talked about free will, and how we’re subject to other people’s exercise of it, and we talked about greed, envy, and injustice. I said: “Yes, the actions of ‘a few’ have caused a lot of problems, and it’s always been that way. At the same time, though, the actions of ‘a few’ – the twelve apostles – also brought about the greatest good – the Catholic Church. Formed and led by the Holy Spirit, they spread the Gospel to the corners of the known world. Therein lies our hope…and challenge. Because if God worked through the faith of ‘a few’ to change the world then, He most certainly can do it now. And He wants to. We just have to say “yes” to His grace and do it.”
This old conversation came to mind the other day, in particularly that last sentence: We just have to say “yes” to His grace and do it.
I so suck at being Catholic. I really do. I look in the mirror, and the person I see too often neglects the fact that God so loved me, He sent His only Son to die for me. Every drop of blood, every bead of sweat, every rip from the lash, and every curse from the tongue – Jesus endured all those injuries for me. So why isn’t that foremost in my mind every day? Why do I forget? How could I forget?
And yet I forget. I have reminders about me – my rosary, crucifixes, my scapular, my Bible. I assist at Mass every Sunday. And yet…the person I see doesn’t say “yes” to His grace and do it. Maybe because it’s not supposed to be a one-time “yes”. It’s a daily thing…no, it’s a minute-to-minute thing. Jesus didn’t command us to love our neighbor a couple times a day. We aren’t supposed to pray for our enemies every other Thursday. Christ didn’t say he and the Father would in abide in us if we kept most of the commandments. It’s an all or nothing proposition. There’s no such thing as partial faith, and there’s no such person as a part-time Catholic.
The person I see, when I look in the mirror, ought to be on his knees constantly, out of gratitude and love, imploring Christ for mercy and forgiveness. The person I see needs to pray more and love more and hope more and trust more. Trust in the God who created me, trust in the Son who died for me, and trust in the Holy Spirit who strengthens me – that when I get around to saying that “yes” – and truly mean it, I mean really mean it, down to the marrow in my bones – I need not doubt that He who has started a great thing in me, will sustain me.
Can you imagine how much the world would change if more Catholics said “yes” with their lives, and not merely with their lips? By saying “yes”, our lamps, like those of the wise virgins, will always be filled. By saying “yes”, we will present to the Lord a proliferation of talents upon His return, like the good servant. By saying “yes”, we will be a light to those in darkness. And by saying “yes”, we will be a contradiction to the world.
By saying “yes”, we will be like Mary, and the saints. And what the world needs now, desperately so, is more saints.
So the person I see, when I look in the mirror, needs to say “yes” to God’s grace and do it. It takes one person at a time – starting with the person I see. There’s no waiting for someone else to say “yes. In times of great sin, God’s grace abounds. It’s there, available in so many ways and attainable by so many means. God’s not stingy with His grace – He’s got bucketfuls, and here I am walking around with a teaspoon. At least I recognize I have a teaspoon, and God will work with that, too.
All it takes is my “yes”, and the world could be changed.