DAILY CATHOLIC MONDAY February 1, 1999 vol. 10, no. 21
Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW
To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO
This is hard work!
My wife and I have spent the past month redoing our Living room, Dining room and upstairs. Needless to say, this has entailed a very labor intensive effort. Before the rooms began to look better, they looked a lot worse. The aches of painting walls, pulling up carpet, carpet boards, etc. But slowly, the rooms began to take shape, a vast improvement could be seen. The results of our labor could be seen.
The same can be said about our lives. Following Christ demands a change, a 'redoing' of our lives. We may lose friends, even relatives, due to our 'ordering our lives' in the light of Christ. It isn't easy and many times things look worse before they look better. Before St. Francis became the beloved saint we know today, many thought him a madman. He lost his family, his father brought him to court, before he found other 'brothers and sisters' who traveled with him.
Our Lord told us of this; "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for My sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many that are first will be last, and the last first" (Mark 10: 29-31).
St. Paul even referred to this: "For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done" (1 Corinthians 3:11-13).
G.K. Chesterton wrote that it isn't that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, but tried and found difficult.
In this age of instant gratification, we forget how difficult, but worthwhile, it is to work at something. Is this so odd? Can one hope to find a good job if they don't 'train' for it? A high school student can hardly walk into a Fortune 500 company and expect a great job simply because he feels it's owed him. He has to work for it, train for it.
Our Holy Father spoke of 'training' for a Christian lifestyle in St. Louis, and training entails pain, sacrifice, etc. Again, this is nothing new. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27).
St. Paul is speaking of the constant and ongoing 'training' one goes through as a Christian. No one can speak to any player, on either team, who played in the Super Bowl, and find they just 'fell' into their positions. They worked hard and long in their skills. Building up their strength on boring, repetitive exercises. Honing their skills, etc. It wasn't 'easy' to be a professional football player. Nor is any 'job'.
"...there is no branch of teaching, however humble and easy to learn, which does not require a master..." (St. Augustine). Our 'training' is forever, and ongoing. We won't finish it until we attain our goal, eternal joy with God in Heaven. "...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3: 10-13).
Our Lord said as much; "Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay every man for what he has done'" (Matthew 16: 24-27).
This sacrifice is going to entail pain of some sort, no doubt about. Many will tell us that this 'sacrifice', this 'work' is unnecessary; that God loves us, and will save us, regardless of what we do. We've heard this before as well. "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, He said to them, 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matthew 3:7-10).
Are we mere rocks, children of God in name only, or the living sons and daughters of God? Just as the Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and obstinate sinners attacked and persecuted Christ, so we will be. The pain we suffer may be heavy. However: "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24: 9-13).
From the person who improves his home, the student who improves his knowledge, the athlete who trains for a prize, and the Catholic who 'trains' for a Christian life, pain comes, sacrifices are made, but the rewards are well worth it.
As Christ tells us, "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matthew 7: 13-14).
Pax Christi, Pat
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