Yesterday, I wrote about the Church being a voice of reason in a world gone insane. I discussed how the Church’s moral teachings hold up, and talked a bit about the Church being the place where we can be accepted and loved. Today, I want to finish discussing how the Church is, indeed, the place where people are accepted with all their dignity, and how all the rules that look so restrictive are only proof that the Church (and God) loves us as we are. Yet God loves us too much to not challenge us to become better — to grow in holiness. I finished yesterday by asking:
But where does this leave us in terms of acceptance and love?
Today I want to continue and try to answer that question.
After all, that’s what people are craving so badly right now. They’re killing themselves for lack of love! Where it leaves us is right where we really want to be.
As a parent, I love my children completely. Nothing they could do would ever change how much I love them. I’d walk through fire for them! But this does not mean that I have to like everything that they do. I can dislike their choices. I can dislike their hair. I can dislike their clothes. But this doesn’t mean I dislike them. In fact, they are secure in their knowledge that I love them no matter what. When my girls were little and got in trouble for doing something they shouldn’t have done, I would punish them, as expected. But frequently, I’d ask them, “Does Mommy love you?” And they’d answer, “Yes,” though a bit begrudgingly sometimes. It was important to me that they understand that I loved them, but didn’t love what they did. It was vital that they learn to separate their actions from themselves — who they are in their very souls. Of course, their actions had consequences, and those actions could do damage to their souls (we never shied away from mentioning sin in an age-appropriate manner), but who they are as children of God would not change. And either would our love for them.
This is the same with God and His Church. We’re all welcome. Anyone and everyone can be Catholic. But, as with any other family, there are the rules. We’re expected to follow them as long as we live under that roof of the Catholic Church. Yes, we’re loved by the Church. Yes, we’re loved buy God (always!!)—and at the same time, God asks us to strive towards holiness. We’re expected to give up the things that we place before Him. We’re asked to give up the things that keep us from being the best person we can be. We’re asked to give up the things that keep us from God. If you look at what the Church says about these hot-button issues, you’ll find that the Church expects us to rise above our difficulties and strive for Christ. As I told my older daugher, the Church is the one place in the world where you aren’t defined by your problems. The Church doesn’t look at you and label you as gay or white or black or transgendered. The Church looks at you and sees the only label that matters in the end: Child of God. She sees that in you, then she encourages you to be holy, just like the saints.
And you know what? Just like I know my kids are going to screw up sometimes, God and His Church know we’re going to screw up sometimes, too. In fact, the Church is so sure of it, there’s a whole process of getting right with God called Confession in which we can tell Jesus what we’ve done wrong through a priest and then hear Jesus, through the same priest, tell us that He forgives us.
Does this mean we don’t have to worry about striving for holiness or avoiding sin? Of course not! (That’s presuming on God’s mercy.) But what it means is that when we’re doing our best and it’s not enough, we have a way to go tell God we’re sorry.
And let me tell you: our best is never enough.
It’s a fact of life that we’re fallen people in a fallen world. That everyone you meet is broken in some way. That no one is perfect. And it’s not some kind of hateful thing to say this — it’s just the truth. It’s not hateful for me to tell you that what you’re doing is hurtful to your soul any more than it’s hateful for a mother to yank a child out of the street when a car is coming. It’s not any more hateful for me to tell you not to abuse your body any more than it’s hateful for a father to refuse a child cookies right before dinner.
As Christians, we all ought to be striving for holiness, and we all ought to be able to charitably tell another Christian when he’s getting into trouble.
But here’s the thing about our best not being enough: God only wants us to try our best, and He’ll make up for the rest. He meets us where we are, picks us up, and dusts us off. He knows very well that we can’t be holy on our own. And that’s why God became Man and walked this earth. Jesus came to show us that He knows it’s hard, and that He’s going to meet us where we are and lead us home. No matter how much of a screw-up you might think you are, God still loves you. In fact, God loves you more than any human being can love you. He loves you for who you are: a child of God.
The culture is dying for the very thing the Church has for them: love and acceptance. Help when things are hard. A family who will not go away, especially when you consider our Father in Heaven and the Blessed Mother, who is mother to all the Church. Certainly, the people in the church are a bunch of sinners — and everyone has faults and problems — but it’s not different than any other family where you can’t stand cousin Jimmy being such an insufferable lout, or your crazy sister Alilce who went off and joined the circus. Every family has crazy relatives that no one wants to be around or talk about. Heck, I’m probably that relative for half the people in my own family!
Why should the crazy relatives keep you out? Come bring your own brand of crazy to the Church, and find where True Love lives.