Okay, so the question is, for Catholic men, what’s not quite enough about being a nice guy, treating people the way you would like to be treated, not taking religion too seriously and being content to evangelize by setting a reasonable example of behavior for others? This is a very common attitude among Catholic men. I indicated in my post of September 23 how I would respond to this question, listing 7 points I intended to address. This post will cover the first 4 points. I refer our readers also to my most recent podcast, “What’s Up with Catholic Men?”
We can start by trying to identify the standard which Catholic men should be setting for themselves. The standard I have described in the paragraph above might seem adequate for a lot of guys. So what’s missing?
Well, what does the Church say? Here’s a quote from a Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium:
“Therefore all in the Church, whether they belong to the hierarchy or are cared for by it, are called to holiness, according to the apostle’s saying” ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification.’” (1 Thessalonians 4:3; cf. Ephesians 1:4) Lumen Gentium Ch. 5, Sec. 39
The Church takes the position that Jesus ushered in a new kingdom in which it’s possible for every person on earth to share in the divinity of God. It’s reasonable, then, to suggest that it would be a serious thing to say, in effect, “Well, thanks God, for the opportunity to share in your divinity, but I’m not really up for that.” Can we get away with telling God we’re not that interested in the kind of life he is offering us?
What God and the Church want and expect is constant growth, constant transformation, as we strive to achieve the holiness that is available to us through our faith in Jesus Christ. This constant growth, this journey, is called “conversion.” Here’s a definition from a Church document:
“Conversion is directed to holiness, since conversion ‘is not an end in itself but a journey towards God who is holy. To be holy is to be like God and to glorify his name in the works which we accomplish in our lives.’” (cf. Matthew 5:16) St. John Paul II, The Church in America, Sec. 30
Conversion comes about when we make a genuine, heartfelt commitment to believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, to strive to be like him and to acknowledge our need for his grace. Most of us did this when we were baptized as infants. There comes a time when we have to make a mature, authentic re-commitment as adults. At the heart of this commitment is a desire to study the life of Jesus Christ, to strive to become closer and closer to him and to experience his love, his mercy, his truth and his supernatural power.
At a recent retreat, the presenter stated that each person whom Jesus ministered to in the gospels was immediately changed in a significant way and explained to others what happened to them by saying, in effect “I met someone.” Conversion takes place when we meet Jesus, and every time we meet him again the conversion becomes deeper and stronger.
The life that Jesus offers us is described very beautifully and powerfully by St. Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians:
“May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his [God’s] call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens…” (Ephesians 1:18-20)
When we strive to be like Jesus and to know him better and better, we experience the “riches of glory” and “the surpassing greatness of his power.” Who would say ‘no’ to that? And if we experience these riches and this power, wouldn’t we be motivated to tell other people about it?
Here’s another quote from St. John Paul II in The Church in America:
“An encounter with the Lord brings about a profound transformation in all who do not close themselves off from him. The first impulse coming from this transformation is to communicate to others the richness discovered in the experience of the encounter.” St. John Paul II, The Church in America, Sec. 68
The richness, the power, come when we experience the grace that accompanies the life of faith. God does not force this grace upon us. He offers it to us, but we can say “no.” We can participate in this life of grace. Or not. Here’s one more quote, from “On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World” by St. John Paul II:
“According to the witness of the beginning, God in creation has revealed himself as omnipotence, which is love. At the same time he has revealed to man that, as the ‘image and likeness’ of his Creator, he is called to participate in truth and love. This participation means a life in union with God, who is ‘eternal life.’ But man, under the influence of the ‘father of lies,’ has separated himself from this participation. To what degree?”
Why do we not know and accept the life that God offers us? Because Satan has created a fog which has obscured the beauty and the power of the grace that our faith in Jesus Christ can bring into our lives. We either don’t know the reality of the life that God offers us or we don’t want to pay the price to have this life.
I’m not sure I can blame Catholic men for falling short of the standard that God has set for us. We have to accept a large share of the responsibility, but at the same time I’m not sure the Church has done such a great job communicating to its members the reality of the rich and exciting life that is available to us.
In our next post, I’ll give detailed examples of the exciting, adventurous life that is available to every Catholic man.