LIFE IN CHRIST
The third pillar of the Catechism, Life in Christ, serves as a guide to how Christians are called to live in relation to the world. Lately, I’ve found myself stuck at the very beginning of the pillar. The title stares me in the face, challenging me, and whispering to me that Life in Christ is also life with brothers and sisters.
In Christ I am smushed up against all those united to Him in Baptism. I think of His Sacred Heart, opened wide as a door, inviting me to dwell within it. But then I notice, it’s not just me in there, all cozy and alone, it’s His whole family. This is my circus, these are my monkeys. Loving them is how I live out Life in Christ.
In my experience, family is big, and loud, and uncomfortable. You know what else? Family is sanctifying, life-giving, and loving my family is a challenge that makes me better. The family of God is equally or more daunting to love than my own biological circus, but the reality of Life in Christ is, if I don’t love them, I don’t really love Him.
THE CATECHISM TAKES NO PRISONERS.
The catechism takes no prisoners. It leaves no wiggle room for a more comfortable interpretation. If I want to be a morally upright person, I have to love my neighbor.
Loving my neighbor sounds cute when it involves comforting a sad kid, or helping a sweet old lady with her garbage cans, or doing little things for people who look and sound and think like me. Loving my neighbor feels a whole lot more difficult when my neighbor is someone who offends or challenges me. The rubber meets the painful road when Life in Christ calls me to love those who voted differently than me, those who don’t use their turn signals, or those who think Keurigs make good coffee. I don’t know about you but this election hurt me. It stung. It festered. People I love and respect took sides I could not begin to understand. We all cried out that there were only bad choices, but then became triumphalists the second one or the other candidate was nailed to the wall. It was ugly, it continues to be pretty ugly.
Over and over I hear people say in pain and exasperation, we are so divided. In the midst of all of this, the challenge of Life in Christ kept on pricking my heart. I cannot write off everyone I disagree with as an idiot. I cannot choose to be absent from what is going on in the world today. I cannot close my eyes to the sufferings of Syria, the divisions in Europe, or the arguments in my living room.
FAITH IS NOT AN ISLAND.
If I really want to be a part of what Jesus came to for, then I need to get on board, this instant, with loving people. But what does loving people really look like?
Pope St. John Paul II changed my life when he explained love as “a gift of self.” This blew all of the fluff out of the water for me. I use this as a measurement for how well I am loving. Am I willing the good of this person, and am I making a gift of myself to them?
When I feel crazy busy and someone stops me to talk, do I look them in the eye and make a gift of myself through my time and attention? That’s what love would do. When someone disagrees with me politically, do I assume they’re an idiot or do I choose to step over to their side of the line? Do I try to understand where they’re coming from? Love would choose the option that doesn’t assume anyone an idiot.
I want tell you right here and right now, I write this from the trenches. I’m not writing from the victory march. I am working every day at seeing and loving people better, because I want to be like Jesus.
When the pharisees asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment in all of the law, he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
Jesus gave me my life’s mission, and it is twofold:
1. Love God
2. Love Neighbor
I’ve been working day by day at loving my neighbor. Here are a few things I’ve found helpful along the way.
Stop thinking of how you will respond and actually listen to the words coming out of the other person’s mouth. Look them in the eye, and hear them. Slowing myself down long enough for this practice is sometimes physically painful to me, but I never regret it.
Actually care about the person you’re with. Care about their aches, their pains, and their joys. They have a beating heart like yours, love it. See in them, truly a neighbor and brother, and love and care for that person as best you can.
3. Find Discipline.
Humility. Stop trying to make yourself look good and consider about how you might make the other person look and feel good. How can you be small and be gift so that others can be loved? Jesus’ advice on this was really practical: put yourself in the lowest place and you will be asked to move to a higher one. Put yourself in the highest place and you will be shamed.
4. Wear uncomfortable shoes.
Make a habit of trying to see things from someone else’s perspective. Try to understand where someone is coming from and how that has affected their thought process. You know, put yourself in their shoes.
It’s awfully hard not to love someone I’m praying for. When I humble myself as a beggar before God in prayer, I am unable to see my neighbor with anything but eyes of mercy. Ask for a changed heart.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Christ calls us not to simply love the nebulous haze of ‘humanity’. Every time I turn on the news, log into social media, or talk to another person who doesn’t seem to get it (whatever it may be), this higher call swims before my eyes.
CCC 1933 the teaching of Christ goes so far as to require the forgiveness of offenses. He extends the commandment of love, which is that of the New Law, to all enemies.
Here’s the bottom line for me - if we want to actually live like Christ the instructions are clear. Love God. Love your brother. Love your sister. Love your neighbor. Love your community. Love that other community that you’re not sure about. Love your enemies.
Fiona studied Catechetics and Theology, when asked she says that's the study of cats on the internet. If she's not busy Youth Ministering she's drinking coffee, dancing like a fool, or nerding out about art and culture. Follow her on instagram @ crazyfiano.