In the Christian life, we can sometimes forget that knowing and loving God is the most important thing.
A vision of the Christian life which is mainly concerned with commandments and rules can make us focus too much on what Iam doing. And at times, it’s not even what I am doing for God, but just what I am doing. The danger with this is that we get caught up in chasing a perfection which we think we can engineer by our own efforts. We can fall into the trap of making God’s law more important than God himself. This does not mean that his law is unimportant. It just means we should obey him because we love him, not so as to be perfect in our own eyes.
Another form of ignoring God is by reducing Christianity to a purely “horizontal” concern. We are all for humanitarian aid and projects; we are zealous promoters and defenders of human rights. Yes, but we often lose sight of the fact that our efforts across the way only find their true source and purpose in our efforts abovethe way. It is our vertical rapport with God which empowers and guides our outreach and bears fruit worthy of God.
A Benedictine I once knew in Rome would often speak of the “tyranny of the intellect.” What he meant was that when too much emphasis is placed on being intelligent, and knowing things, we can end up knowing a great deal aboutthe Church, her history and her mystery, and even aboutGod, yet fail actually to know and loveGod and the Church, created and born of that love.
A more recent twist on this is found in people adopting a (sometimes exclusively) political or ideological mindset when studying or observing the affairs of Church or God. How frequently we hear today phrases like “right wing” or “left wing”, “conservative” or “progressive” when it comes to Church matters. When I was in the United States, people, even at church, were more interested in whether you were “democrat” or “republican” than in whether you were a believer or non-believer, faithful or unfaithful. To look at God and his Church through a political eyeglass is like listening to music with earplugs in.
It is not that the moral life, the humanitarian concern, the intellectual and academic are not important. They are, of course, very important. But their true importance, and their true effectiveness, depends on our individual and communal relationship with God. Any attempt to interpret the reality of the Church and her teaching and mission, any attempt to understand her engagement with the world will fail without accepting that her origin is in God, her structure is established by God, her mission is God-given and its aim is to bring people to know and love God and to share in his life. In a word, only the eyes of faith can see God and Church aright.
So, to maintain a healthy Christian life, it’s of paramount importance to establish, sustain and nourish our personal relationship with God: with God the Father, my Father, the Origin and Goal of my existence, the Provider and Foundation of my security; with God the Son, my Saviour and Redeemer, my Brother and my Friend, my Lover and my Judge; and with God the Holy Spirit, my Life and my Light, my Advocate and Consoler. Each of the three divine Persons invites each of us to a rich and deep relationship of familiarity and adoration. He begs our love.
This relationship is not some imposition on my freedom or time. It is, in fact, the foundation and guarantee of my true freedom and eternity. There is nothing more human than to engage with the divine. If we let ourselves be distracted or absorbed by less than God, we will fail to live authentic human lives by God’s measure. Whereas, if God is our main concern, pursuit, desire and motivation, all the other things and people in our lives will benefit greatly. God takes nothing away from us: he gives us everything. He does not remove our human loves: he gives them depth, purity, strength and fidelity. He does not suffocate our true human potential: he engages it until it flourishes eternally.
To the degree that each of us seeks out the Lord our God with sincerity of heart, with the desire truly to know him and love him as he is, and not as we imagine him to be in our limited way, then we will bring that flourishing self to the whole community. At Sunday Mass, the Lord most certainly welcomes us all, however we are and in whatever state we find ourselves. And he loves us unconditionally. But his desire for us, his dream for our full blossoming as individuals and as community seeks to draw us outwards and upwards into his own vision, understanding and plan. If we let him do that, our moral lives, our social and humanitarian care, our very minds and hearts will of themselves bear abundant fruit for his glory and for our eternal happiness and peace. Let’s live for God, love God, seek God out, talk about God. For in this our life consists.