Thursday, September 16, 2010

What do you expect from your relationship to Jesus Christ?

A Meditation on the Fruits of the Holy Spirit by Monsignor Charles Pope

Monsignor Pope has another fine article over at the Archdiocese of Washington DC blog site about our relationship with Jesus and our usually very low expectations of that relationship. 

Here are his thoughts on our expectation levels:
I have come to discover that many do not expect all that much. In effect they hope that faith can kind of help them “muddle through” life and offer them a few consolations that, perhaps things will be better some day, and in heaven. Others see the moral life described in the scriptures more as a duty than a description of the person being transformed by Jesus Christ. And because they see it as a list of duties,  rather than the result of grace, they tend to resent it, consider it unrealistic, or just feel overwhelmed by it. Very few expect to be able to radically live this moral life and experience it happen in their life.
Over the years, I have known many of my Protestant brothers and sisters, who spoke about their "personal" relationship with Jesus Christ, telling me that you gotta have it, or you are toast.  But, they also had something going for them that had some meat to it.  Generally, when I encountered that I offered them a single digit in salute, not meaning that I thought they were Number 1 with me.  Yeah, Yeah!! You have a personal relationship with a dead guy.  You gotta be kidding me!

I went from being raised a Catholic, to abandoning the Church, to returning but being just a more mature version of what I was raised to be in the 50's, and 60's before Vatican II worked its way into the fabric of the Church.

But, then one night Jesus Christ came to me.  He was not dead at all, but very much alive, and He, the God of the Universe, loved me as much as He had ever loved anybody, and He knew all about me.  There was something to this.  Heck, there was a lot to this.  I thought I sold out then, but I have learned in the intervening 30 years, that it was only the beginning, and each day I sell out a teensy weensy bit more, and have come to grasp bit by bit the life that Monsignor Pope speaks of in his article.

As he says:
Scripture describes the Christian life as consisting in  joy, victory, confidence, hope, love, self mastery and so forth. This is the normal Christian life.
He then provides us with a few references to prove his point.  But, it is true.  If any of us would like our lives to be filled with "joy, victory, confidence, hope, love, self mastery and so forth", we only have to look to Him.  But, these fruits don't look quite like you might expect.  For example, walking in victory.  Never losing at anything again, right?  Successful in business.  Successful in love.  Successful in life's challenges.  Not so fast there.  This success is a different kind of success.  This success is embracing all those challenges and hardships and being at peace because the God of the Universe loves you so much that they are not only bearable, where they would not appear to be, but they are opportunities to grow as a person, because of doing so in faith.

He speaks briefly but profoundly about 12 of the fruits of life in the Holy Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, self-control, generosity, modesty, and chastity.  And you know, I never thought about it, but as I have decided to try and be like Him, as He was on earth, those things are happening in my life, not perfectly, but significantly.  I do love better than I did, not perfectly, but better, and getting better.  I have become a somewhat peaceful person, and there are days when I am patient, kind, and operate to an extent in the fruits. 

But, I know that it is not me, but Him in me that is shining through, when I live these things well.

I see that what Monsignor Pope writes about is a life that is full, and one that I am certain believers that I know are aspiring to, with many bumps and bruises along the way, but the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Praise the Lord.  He's alive.

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