Monday, June 5, 2023

The path of joy is uncomfortable

 In the vast stillness of the church building, the Responsorial Psalm rang out solemnly from the pulpit: 

"The law of the LORD is perfect,

refreshing the soul.

The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,

giving wisdom to the simple." (from Psalm 19)

Again and again, the refrain declared: "The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart." 

My thoughts danced around the 10 Commandments and all of the teachings that Christ presents in the Gospels. Yes, these DO give joy to the heart, a deep freedom from sin and the fullness of God's life-but do we let them?

Do we allow God to grant us joy and peace through his laws? 

In our culture, we so often see the precepts of God as restrictions that hamper "who we really are." We may think of the 10 Commandments as simple guidelines. We may view them as rules for only the "really holy people." Perhaps we do live according to the precepts of God, but with little thought to joy. We begrudging go through the motions to "keep holy the Lord's day." We make a show of "honoring father and mother" without any kind of movement of our hearts. We dismiss any rules on sexuality because those seem outdated and prudish. We flock to churches that affirm our sinful behaviors rather than calling us to a deeper conversion and embrace of the Gospel. 

And into a country swept up with these sentiments, the refrain resounded at Mass: "The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart." 

We are the ones who put limits on God. We are lured by the glamor of evil and fall into sin and turn away from the abundance of life that God offers us. We reject the ultimate joy of life in union with God. 

Yet, God, in his infinite love and mercy, invites us to experience this life with Him. He pursues us, he calls to us, continually offering us mercy, intimacy, and love. He invites us to walk with Him, on a journey of greater holiness. But, when Jesus walked on this Earth, he never said that life as a disciple, that the life of holiness, would be easy and effortless.

“Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” (Lk 9:23-25)

Following God requires self-denial and sacrifice. It requires that I detach from whatever superficial pleasures, fears, or sins are holding me back from Him. The path to Heaven is uncomfortable, and following God's perfect law is not easy in our fallen world. Yet, life in God is worth any sacrifice and any discomfort. 

Will I make the choice to view the precepts of God as experiences of joy? Will I recognize them as wise and perfect? Will I deny myself daily so that I may freely follow Christ where he leads me? 

No comments:

Post a Comment