God has created us with a desire to hope. This desire reaches its pinnacle in the virtue of hope: that hope we have in attaining the promises of Christ in eternal Beatitude.
By Kaitlyn Vermeeren
17 May 2018
Have you ever caught yourself questioning what you are meant to do in your life? What career is best, who you will marry, where you’re going to live? Being human, we have a tendency to question everything since we always will have a questioning nature. It’s the reason so many question the existence of God: we need to know the answers.
If you’ve heard the song by Francesca Battistelli “Free to be Me,” (one of my absolute favourite songs), she touches on the idea that we are all unique in our own nature, some (such as myself) tend to be on the clumsier side and unsure of where we fit in. However, no matter how hard we try to “fit the pieces together,” we cannot know our destiny. Only God knows the entire story. The only thing we can know for certain is that God made each and every one of us unique and perfect in His image. Have you ever heard the phrase “Imago Dei”? This comes from Latin, meaning “image and likeness of God.” Each of us has been created by God in His image, unique, one of a kind, yet also each revealing a piece of God’s self to the world. Therefore, we share a piece of God in us and are each unique and special to Him.
Through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we are given the gift of freedom, a free life to live by the grace of God, and are given the freedom to choose how we live, freedom from sin as long as we choose to focus on Christ. What a great gift! Who needs to know what the future holds as long as you know today, here and now, you are free and are held dear to God.
In the Gospel reading where Jesus appoints his 12 followers, he doesn’t deem it necessary to hold “try-outs” or test to see if they would make worthy apostles. He knows them and has, like God, already chosen each unique person, no matter their past, present, or future. It says in scripture: “And he went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired” (Mark 3:13). He desires them, an intense love for them to know and follow him, as he already has loved them since before they existed in the world. Each of us, no matter our faults, quirks, clumsiness, and doubts about the future are called to follow God and enter into this loving relationship that He has had for us since before time, before our very existence.
The struggle with finding relationship in faith connects back to our very human nature, the continuous battle between sin and grace. While we are created in God’s very image and likeness, we are given the element of free will and choice, the choice to choose to seek God and return to Him after death. There is a constant struggle to have hope in a world of rising good and falling evil, where there are natural disasters and new life comes into being. Even though good times come and you feel like they fill you with an abundant joy that could never end or be compared with. Soon enough, something goes wrong, making you forget that feeling of joy, plunging you into darkness.
Last night on my drive home, I had the rare opportunity to see the two sides of the sky, one which revealed a beautiful, enrapturing sunset, with the palest rainbow assortment of colors. On the other side, there was blackness, dark clouds turning into night. As I headed towards home, the sunset was behind me, and the dark clouds of night became the central focus. However, knowing from experience, the new day will bring the sun, and the next following night, there will be another wonderful sunset. I’ve always detested driving in the dark since you can’t see the beauty of the sun, but when the cloud coverage leaves, you can then see a wonderful assortment of stars. The world around us is a perfect example of how even in the darkest (literally) of times, beauty can come, teach us to move forward, and face the challenges ahead so to see the sunrise that fast approaches. Jesus on the cross offers us this same experience of hope, to fight in faith and embrace God’s will. St Paul writes:
Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities, and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”Acts 20:28-37
St. Paul talks about his experience with faith, how following Jesus’ death the wolves would come. After the wolves, there will be more trials, more men with harsh words, those who oppose goodness and love and who seek to tear down the Church. It’s the human life, and God brings us through it with Jesus at the centre. St. Augustine wrote, “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” Though there may be elements of doubt and fear, there is always a new day and a new sunrise, which God brings us to become the better version of ourselves. We are created in His very image after all and God knew us before we were born, so is there any reason to fear?
Join in prayer to thank God for this wonderful experience to live in faith:
My blessings are many and my heart is filled with gratefulness for the gift of living, for the ability to love and be loved, for the opportunity to see the everyday wonders of creation, for sleep and water, for a mind that thinks and a body that feels.
I thank you, too, for those things in my life that are less than I would hope them to be. Things that seem challenging, unfair, or difficult. When my heart feels stretched and empty, and pools of tears form in my weary eyes, still I rejoice that you are as near to me as my next breath and that, in the midst of turbulence, I am growing and learning.
In the silence of my soul, I thank you most of all for your unconditional and eternal love.
Photo Credit: Waiting for The Word, by Charles Bosseron Chambers. Image cropped.
Only a question….why Catholic…..why not take formal religion out of it and just know God without the rules and restictions that are so prevalent in formal religion? Catholic as all religion only excludes…simply knowing God is all inclusive no? Also devil? Really? No such thing…nor sin…….simply challenges and diversions from a better path…….
Deacon Frederick Bartels says
Thanks for the comments and questions.
These are complex questions, but I’ll take a stab at answering them as briefly as possible. Maybe someone else has something to add?
1. Why Catholic and why organized religion? Religion is a system by which we come to know God and relate to him. Without it, we end up projecting false images of God onto God, making God into a being of our own subjective wishes. God, then, becomes nothing more than a projection of one’s own desires. However, the goal is to know who God really is and to worship him in spirit and truth so as to attain our end of happiness with God. The “I’m spiritual but not religious” view, so prevalent today, is less, not more. It’s a departure from the fullness of truth and worship and opens people to the dangers of self-deception.
Because there are different religions, it does NOT follow that they are all of the same value or that there isn’t one that is totally true that communicates God’s divine revelation in its full purity. The key is to practice the fullness of religious truth. It is the claim of the Catholic Church that she is historically founded by Christ himself and that the true Church of Jesus Christ subsists in her. Although elements of truth can be found in other religions, the Catholic Church offers the fullest means of salvation, grace and truth.
If you are Christian and believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then you would have to take organized religion and the Church seriously, since Christ himself clearly founded his Church on St. Peter, the leader of the apostles (see Mt 16:17 ff.). Additionally, Christ gave the Church spiritual authority over his followers (see Mt 18:15 ff.).
Last, we come to know God through a social environment and the teaching of God’s chosen leaders. Knowing God involves community. The Church is a community of believers, the people of God and the body of Christ whose faith tradition dates back over 4000 years. That’s a lot of knowledge and tradition!
2. Does the devil exist? Yes. God’s divine revelation in scripture indicates clearly that the devil is a living, personal, spiritual being (a fallen angel) with a malicious intent for humankind. He is called by Jesus “the father of lies.” When people think the devil does not exist, Satan has already won a major battle in their lives. This is the case because, when people think he’s not real, they don’t believe he is influencing them and his temptations which lead to eternal damnation and destruction are all the more readily accepted.
3. Is there such a thing as sin? Absolutely. St. Thomas Aquinas defined sin as a voluntary bad human act. Sin involves choosing whatever is opposed to an authentic good; it’s a deprivation of the good; it’s an act by which a person chooses to do evil. Sin is all around us. If, for example, we witness a man rape a woman, everyone universally would agree that such an action is bad, sinister, malicious and harmful. There’s no disputing that sin is a reality.
4. What about rules? Imagine a society without rules. It would be chaos. I don’t know if you live in the U.S., but imagine an American society without any kind of rules. It would be no place to live. Rules, civil laws and so forth, are necessary for the just and peaceful ordering of society. Rules and laws, if they are just, exist for the good of all. They safeguard the common good.
God’s rules, his commandments and doctrines, are all rooted in the love of God the Father for his children. They are given to us by God for the proper ordering of our lives and as guidelines that help us to attain our predestined end in God. The commandments, then, are ultimately about our happiness. Consider the 4th commandment, “You shall honor your father and your mother.” When children disrespect their parents, the family breaks down. They carry this disobedient attitude into society where they disrespect people in positions of authority (teachers, their boss, political and community leaders, etc.). It’s easy to see that the 4th commandment is about our true benefit and authentic human flourishing. It’s NOT an arbitrary rule imposed on us by God for no reason. God’s laws prohibit departing from whatever is truly good. They direct us to always avoid evil and do the good, which is the first precept of the moral law.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 Jn 5:1 ff.)
Christianity, however, is not ultimately about following rules but about living in a new, free and loving way in the kingdom of Christ. It’s about human flourishing and the fullness of human life. It’s about real love, commitment, discipleship, meaning and purpose of life. It truly is THE WAY to live. However, that’s not to say it’s easy. One must bring his life under the rule of Christ, in childlike trust, in order to live in God’s kingdom.
Living as a Catholic and Christian disciple is not for cowards or for those who prefer themselves over others or their wishes over Christ’s teaching. Ultimately, if one desires God (and possessing God is everything), one has to die to self.
Deacon Frederick Bartels