One of my goals this year is to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I’m taking it little by little, reading a couple pages each day…so far so good.
I recently read the section entitled, THE IMPLICATIONS OF FAITH IN ONE GOD. This section was so good I just wanted to share it as well as a couple practical thoughts I had.
222 Believing in God, the only One, and loving him with all our being has enormous consequences for our whole life.
Belief demands change, belief results in action. As James 2:26 states, For as the body apart from spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead. Paragraph 222 also points to another reality that there is only One God. Our culture seeks to make God relative, just as it has done with morality. The immediate response to this belief in God is love, loving with all our being. That’s hard…I certainly fall short of that. Yet I’m a firm believer in progress rather than perfection. As Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.”
The Catechism then lays out certain consequences that result from that reality:
223 It means coming to know God’s greatness and majesty: “Behold, God is great, and we know him not” (Job 36:26). Therefore, we must “serve God first” (St. Joan of Arc).
224 It means living in thanksgiving: if God is the only One, everything we are and have comes from him: “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor 4:7) “What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me?” (Ps 116:12)
225 It means knowing the unity and true dignity of all men: everyone is made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26).
226 It means making good use of created things: faith in God, the only One, leads us to use everything that is not God only insofar as it brings us closer to him, and to detach ourselves from it insofar as it turns us away from him:
My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you.
My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you.
My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you (St. Nicholas of Flüe; cf. Mt 5:29-30; 16:24-26).
227 It means trusting God in every circumstance, even in adversity. A prayer of St. Teresa of Jesus wonderfully expresses this trust:
Let nothing trouble you / Let nothing frighten you
Everything passes / God never changes
Patience / Obtains all
Whoever has God / Wants for nothing
God alone is enough (St. Teresa of Jesus, Poesías 30, in The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, vol. III).
There are 5 consequences listed: (1) coming to know God’s greatness and majesty, (2) living in thanksgiving, (3) knowing the unity and true dignity of all men, (4) making good use of created things, and (5) trusting God in every circumstance. Let’s break this down, practically speaking.
- coming to know God’s greatness and majesty – The Catechism points to three things in terms of this knowing. First, that “God is great.” Second, “we know him not.” Third, we must “serve God first.” God’s greatness is not dependent on my ability to know it. I don’t know it, if I’m being honest, and therefore I better be trying to grow in knowledge of God and His greatness and opportunistic when it comes to getting a few scars. By scars I mean those things that I don’t really want to do but know are essential as well as those things that I get to unite to Jesus’ sacrifice (i.e. any physical suffering, emotional suffering, dryness in prayer, etc.). The really cool thing, is that God is also good, so I get His Grace. Grace enables me to serve, or at least try to serve, God to the best of my ability.
- living in thanksgiving – I MUST have an “attitude of gratitude.” God is good and “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Whenever ever I get down, depressed, and in that poor me state of mind I need to sit down and do a GRATITUDE LIST. What am I grateful for? My life, my family, my friends, my home, my clothes, my health, having two hands, having two functioning eyes, and so forth. It is so important that I remember how blessed I really am.
- knowing the unity and true dignity of all men – If “everyone is made in the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:26), then it follows that all are worthy of love. Each soul has value and is utterly unique. Whether that soul is our mother or the murderer…each was created by God. While created in “the image and likeness of God,” man does not always act like God. That is why love is so important. When we love the unlovable, we love like God.
- making good use of created things – The spirit of the world wants us to worship the material. Yet it is God who creates all things, therefore “use everything that is not God only insofar as it brings us closer to him” (CCC 226). Our hearts long for God, that is why buying a new car or house, while giving us temporary satisfaction, fails to satisfy us…it is never enough. That is why we are so consumption oriented…we seek to fill. This outward-focus can be extremely dangerous to us if we allow it to turn us away from God through distraction or obsession. We should strive to be soulish not selfish.
- trusting God in every circumstance – Trust. What do we see when we look at the cross? A “t” right? The “t” of the cross stands for trust, especially in adversity. Think about this in terms of the previous four consequences. If we need to know that God is great and worthy of knowing better and serving, if we are grateful to Him, if we see that all souls are like us in that they have been made by and for God, and if we are to use things only if they draw us closer to God, then doesn’t it follow that we would have to trust Him. God is great, worthy of our love, our seeking, our thanksgiving, therefore we can absolutely trust Him. I must pray – Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.
Practicing these five consequences or principles isn’t always easy and I certainly don’t do it perfectly, but I understand that I need to. So I try.