Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Natural Byproduct and Ultimate Gift

Why do you go to church? A straightforward, simple question that usually calls forth a similarly uncomplicated answer: to find peace of mind. Life is full of trials and difficulties, and for many of us trusting in Almighty God is the hoped-for  way to peace. However, it doesn't take long before we realize the Catholic way is different from what we expected. When nothing seems to change after baptism, and peace of mind doesn't come, we fall away. 

Seeking peace of mind is not the correct motivation for a religious life, says the Peace Weekly columnist in his column on happiness. Peace, he says, is the result of a faith-life lived well. It is not handed to us before starting on our life's journey. 

Jesus tells us clearly in Luke 12:51: "Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." Jesus, judging exteriorly by the trials he endured, was without peace, a dying every day, to be reborn every day, until the last dying before the resurrection. Baptism  is  also a dying, which a person well-catechized understands, the columnist tells us, that begins our journey following Christ, a journey that demands endurance and patience. Peace is not the goal of this Christian journey; it is, instead, living a life of worship of God, a life of gratitude and praise. Put starkly and simply, the Christian's first responsibility is the worship of God, and secondly saving his or her soul.

"So then, let your light shine in the sight of men, so that they may see your good works, and may glorify your Father, who is in heaven" (Matt.5:16). Our life should be guided not by decisions that will bring us what the world prizes most, but by decisions that will bring more glory to God. Many Koreans believe, as do many Jews--following traditional beliefs--that a sign of God's favor is to receive five blessings: long life, wealth, children, a good name, and a peaceful death. Of what was considered important in life, the five blessings, Jesus didn't possess even one of them.

What is important is that God be the center of our lives. When we make ourselves the center, everything is turned upside down. Instead of making God the center, the temptation is to make our happiness and peace of mind of central importance, using God to enjoy creation when we should be using creation to enjoy God. The effort is unnecessary and destructive; God is always there to make us happy and bring  us peace.

Yes, peace is important but peace is not what we should be searching for. When we live a fully Christian life, peace is the natural byproduct. And the ultimate gift.

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