The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

For the Love of Christ

For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.
2 Corinthians (RSV) 5,14

This passage of St. Paul loses some of its punch in the modern English translations of sacred scripture. Looking at that word control in the Latin Vulgate the word used here is urget, which means to press or to bear hard down. So Christ's love does not manipulate as many in modern culture interpret that word control, but rather Paul is so keenly aware of this love, this charity of Our Lord; it is so plainly obvious that it traverses continuously in his soul, and he is compelled to act upon it.

For the love of Christ!

These days if one hears that phrase proclaimed it's usually done in anger. There stands good reason to believe that the person uttering it has found himself in a state of frustration and exasperation. And while it borders on taking Our Lord's name in vain, it does prove interesting that when one uses that expression they're often thinking, "What in the world compelled you to do that?!" What spurred one on to do what was likely a very foolish thing? What was so danged urget?

Either through faith, reason, or physical evidence, one believes in the love of Our Lord. But perhaps as one enters this final week of Advent the question to meditate upon is does one really love Christ? When one says one loves Jesus, what does that really mean?

For many, Christ remains an intellectual exercise. They agree with what He teaches and consider His story a good one to reflect upon and even draw upon; however, some of it seems a little impractical for modern living. Ask this person if he loves Christ, and he more likely gives an answer that reflect he loves the idea of Christ versus actual divine person.

Others love Christ for what he did for them. An evangelical Christian for example might love Our Lord for having gained him salvation under the philosophy of once saved always saved. This person would certainly say he loved Christ, but in a sense has his gaze more towards the future heavenly encounter with this savior of the past.

For the Catholic Christian, to love Christ is to love Him in the present moment. Jesus is not just some ancient historical figure or someone one meets only in the hereafter. He is the divine, incarnate person of the Trinity whom one encounters in the now. At mass the mystery of faith proclaimed is "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again." Notice the past, present and future of that statement, particularly that Christ is risen. It's not "Christ died, Christ rose" as if one is remembering a lesson of theological history. The proclamation stands as a statement of fact that remains ever present.

The ultimate, most intimate encounter with Christ in the present gets reserved for the Holy Eucharist when one physically encounters the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord. As one approaches Christ in this sacrament, one should truly examine just what kind of relationship one has with Jesus. Is it similar to that of a close friend, or is it distant? Does one extend the reverence and respect one might have when approaching a benevolent king, or does one go through the motions as if one was in line at the supermarket?

Beyond the mass as one speaks to Our Lord in prayer is the conversation one-sided? Does one cultivate silence to give Jesus a chance to get a word in, or has prayer become a routine with only slightly more importance than brushing one's teeth every day? When reading sacred scripture, does one read the word of God like a bride reading a love letter from her husband, hanging on every thought and revelation, or does one spend more time in an academic exercise of exegesis?

What does one mean when one says one loves Jesus?

Imagine if a wife's conversations with her spouse were all one-sided; that when she wrote him a note or letter he spent more time reading between the lines than experiencing the sentiments and meaning contained within; that when the two became one flesh, it was treated as a casual or perfunctory affair no more meaningful than taking out the garbage. Would anyone look at that and call it a healthy, loving relationship? And yet the above often describes exactly many believer's approach their relationship with The Christ.

As the celebration of the birth of Jesus approaches, let all take a few moments each day to examine what stage one finds oneself in one's relationship with Him. And upon reflection if one discovers, as no doubt all especially this author will, an area where love for Jesus is lacking, perhaps one can start with the basics.

Imagine one's disposition in holding a newborn baby. There is a unique joy and sense of wonder in cradling a baby in one's arms. Now imagine the child one so carefully rocks in one's arms is Baby Jesus. Savor the moment...and let the love grow from there.


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