Apologize and Don't Be Sorry!

A site dedicated to thinking through the common objections to the Catholic Faith as well as questions of a general religious nature.

Location: Prague, Oklahoma, United States

Just your basic 21st century priest trying to bring the Gospel to everyone who will give it a fair hearing.

Monday, March 15, 2004

To Live is To Change

Ever have that moment where you knew nothing would ever be the same? For the Christian, it happens the moment he encounters Christ. St. Anthony (251–356) would become a noted spiritual director and the father of eastern monasticism. But first he had to undergo a change. When his parents died, he was left with extensive land and great wealth, as well the care of his sister. But coming to church on Sunday, he heard the words Christ addressed to the rich young man, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mt. 19:21; Mk. 10:21; Luke 18:22). For Anthony, these were not just words off the page; those words were addressed to him. Afterwards, he sold everything, holding back only enough as he thought necessary for himself and his sister. Most people would think that Anthony had done enough. But then on another occasion, Anthony went to church, the words of Christ, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself” (Mt. 6:34) struck home. Anthony disposed of the remaining wealth. He placed his sister with a group of women who were living a common life of prayer and sacrifice for the Lord. With this final duty dispensed, he set out to live a life for Christ alone. What permitted this remarkable change to occur? Anthony’s willingness to change permitted it to occur.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, advises that one must “[p]ut to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry... But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth...Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:5-13). There exists a clear dividing line between the ways of the world and the ways of Christ. If one does not leave behind the things of the previous life, the life before the encounter with Christ, one can wonder what kind of encounter it was. Our actions have concrete meaning that communicate the basic elements of what we believe to be important. The person who recognizes the gratuitous nature of God realizes that this places a serious obligation to renounce those things which are contrary to living in Christ.

Our actions can signal from where our happiness arises. In the canonical Gospels, the Beatitudes are recorded twice, once in St. Matthew and once in St. Luke. The set from Matthew is probably the ones with which we are more familiar. In St. Luke, the Beatitudes are matched with a set of warnings. “But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger. Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:24-26). In short, if one clings to the goods of this world to the neglect of the source of these goods and the service of one’s neighbor, there is not a happy future in store. The only way out is to change. Learning how to give to those in need because we are needy begins the movement toward Christ. Learning how to share the sorrows of others leads us to see, perhaps for the first time, that they are just like us. Learning how to speak the words that will rouse a weary soul to seek redemption in Christ, despite the unpopularity of the message, brings into play all of the talents we have received from God.

The most fundamental disposition of the serious disciple of Christ is the willingness to change. We are called to change not because something new and improved has come into view. This is the modern obsession with novelty. We change because someone has demanded new things of us and has given us the power to make them happen.


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