Life is a struggle; life is a series of rises and falls, of lows and highs, of good moments and bad moments, of smiles and frowns, of tears and laughter… Not necessarily in that order; something close to that and much more… Yet in living this life, our driving force is usually to be appreciated, especially by those we love. As Christians, our driving force is the same, but acceptance from Christ.
In the website aboutcatholics.com, they explain that the basis of all Catholic moral teaching is our belief in the God who created all things and in Jesus who taught us even better how to live. We believe we are created in God’s image and that we, and all creation, are basically good. Yet we recognize our own tendencies toward evil, especially in an excess of our desires. The Ten Commandments are part of the code known to the early Israelites that helped them to live better lives in relationship with Yahweh. We believe in the same values, with certain changes because of our knowledge of Jesus Christ. We believe Jesus, as God become human “God among us,” has most truly shown us how to live. Our moral life is based on trying to live and treat others as Jesus did. The Bible is the primary source of information on the life of Jesus. In it, we find that the Reign of God (or Kingdom of God) is the central focus of Jesus’ teaching. And in imitating Christ we become more christlike, and we can be the ambassadors of Christ himself in the world today.
The Ten Commandments sometimes referred to as the Decalogue, can be seen as a legislative body of rules. From the time when God issued them on Mount Sinai to Moses (Exodus 20:2-17) that is how some people practiced them. However, Jesus came to clarify how we fulfill those Commandments. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and so he did. He summarized the Ten Commandments into two great commandments revolving around the theme of love. Jesus said to love God with all you heart, all your soul and your entire mind and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-39). Jesus gave us a clear vision of the purpose of the Ten Commandments – they are a framework for Christian life. Jesus’ point was that love fulfills the law. You cannot fulfill God’s law and God’s will if you do not have love. Love requires a certain amount of sincere desire in one’s heart so in order to truly follow God one be serious within his or her own heart and not merely by action or deed. This implies that certain selflessness is an intrinsic part of the Reign of God, where we treat others as though they were Christ, since we see Christ in them.
Fulfilling God’s will by truly desiring to serve God and serve your fellow humans, no matter how good or bad they are (judgment is left to God and God alone), will grant you free access to heaven. But in order to get to heaven it is from within that we must change and only with the help of Jesus.
“I, the Lord, am your God. You shall have no other gods before me.” – God “Of course I don’t worship anyone other than God,” we might say. But how often do you pray? How often do you let God take care of the work or do you just take matters into your own hands to make sure it gets done when and how you want it done? Many of us have been there. We let many things come before God in our busy and often hectic lives. True freedom lies in knowing that because you love God so much and trust he will take care of you that he never disappoints. You are freer to live your life and be of assistance to others who may be struggling. Jesus demanded faith of his followers (miracles only happened for people of faith) and ongoing conversion (repentance), recognizing that we will never do all that we could. But Jesus challenged all to become his disciples, leaving home and possessions, and “taking up your cross.” Thus, it is not always easy to follow his teachings.
The Catholic Church maintains this ideal that we all should be trying to live a perfect life. Since we know that it is not possible, we have sacraments like reconciliation, penitential rites at mass, and one time during the year, lent, when we try to focus on our own lives and how we are continually called to be better. We must, as Jesus’ followers, always continue to strive to be better, without focusing on the mistakes of the past. Within the context of conversion, one always needs to look at the past in order to critique our actions, such as during Lent. This is important so that we can choose how we want to act in the future. We are not to keep looking back! Guilt, as a motivation to do better next time, can be good; however guilt, as a looking back, cannot be good.
The individual Christian morality is based on trying to help individuals be the kind of person a Christian is called to become. Rather than following a set of rules, we are called to constant conversion: a process by which our whole life is shaped by the gospel message. We are to make God the center and source of our being. We are to allow ourselves to be transformed by that redemptive, healing presence of God and then allow God to continue to work through us to redeem and heal others and the whole world, enemies as well as friends, the outcasts as well as the respectable, the poor as well as the rich, sinners as well as the righteous; a constant process of conversion.
How do we do this? We have to keep trying to find our way. We have to stand up for what is right and just and not sit on the fence like Pilate, we have to accept to carry our crosses of serious illnesses or handicap, family problems, unemployment and persecution among others in communion with our savior for our own salvation and the salvation of others, we have to generously accept to help others carry their crosses and follow Christ too, we must stretch out a helping hand to our brothers and sisters who are addicted to drugs, are orphaned in the streets, are wounded and weak and in doing so we alleviate the pain of their suffering, we have to strive to see God in our lives not only when things are going well but also when everything is falling apart because it is at those moments that Christ is really evident in our lives, we have to be the Simon of Cyrene of this day, who give food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, care, comfort and assistance to the neglected and downtrodden, hope to the despairing, love to the unloved and abandoned, we have to stand firm in our faith and be ready to defend it, we have to invite Christ in whatever we do and say, so that we may overcome temptations and trials and always be faithful to Him, we have to be ready to build love where there is none and in doing so there may be less tears and more joy on the faces of all those around us, we need to remember that Christ is our constant companion and we need not do anything on our own because we were granted the Holy spirit on our confirmation in fulfillment of Christ’s promise that He will not leave us as orphans, and in this spirit we overcome all, we need to defend Christ in the lives of the unborn and the children who are oppressed and abused, clothing them with the love of Christ, we need to empty ourselves of our selfish desires and ambitions of our greed for riches and comfort, we need to love even those who are unlovable, those who wrong us, those who cause us so much pain, and in loving them we can forgive them truly, we need to learn to share, not just the material things that we have but ourselves, giving those around us a bit of us in a bid to make them better persons, we need to be selfless in all things, we need to respect every human being, protect the lives of those entrusted to our care for instance our children, we need to live as children of eternity believing that at death, life is changed not ended, and sin is not the final word and that we are here on earth on a temporary assignment, and in remembering this be in constant readiness to meet Christ himself face to face.
We have a wonderful chance to be Christ-like to others and help them walk the path that we are walking. Jesus said if you ask anything in faith it will be granted. Yet as a Christian, I look at the pride of God our father, when He declared to the world, not once but twice, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17-NIV), “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5, NIV). This becomes my utmost inspiration. Living a life such that, when I die, Jesus will declare before His Father, who is our father also, ‘Behold, my beloved sister, of whom I am greatly pleased’. Oh, such joy to behold… It is this desire, that my brother Jesus be proud of me, that drives me to do what I do, and be who I am. Yes, our ultimate goal is to go to heaven but first we must do our temporary assignment here on earth. Being Christlike is hard, but the fact that Christ promised to be here for us until the end of times is encouraging. Our time to live for Christ is now. He tells us to keep watch for we know not the hour that the son of man shall return. This is well captured in a poem my classmate Sylvia wrote on Tuesday 6th march 2011, which said,
“The clock of life is wound but once,
And no being has the power to tell,
At late or early hour,
Now is the only time you own,
Live, love, toil with will,
Place no future in tomorrow,
For the clock may then be still,
So free yourself from yourself,
Become the created you,
Peep through the iron curtain,
Peep long beyond the final stand,
And when you have the choice,
To sit it out or dance,
I hope you dance”
Well, she hoped I danced, when time comes, I hope Jesus will introduce me to His Father, our heavenly Father with pride…