Why follow Jesus and not someone else? And why not be the master of my one life? What does Jesus have that the others don’t? Also, where does this Jesus take us? What does he want to do with us?
What is certain with Jesus Christ is that he does not hide his intentions. What does he want? Our freedom. He wants to free us! Isn’t that great news? Deep down, isn’t that what every person wants?
Okay, you might ask, but free us from what? We are not in prison! We live in a free country! I am a free man! A liberated woman!
The truth – if we dare to meet it head on – is that despite all our efforts to be good persons and despite all our efforts to find happiness, we often miss the mark.
Freed and Delivered!
Jesus came to tell us to stop carrying everything on our shoulders! God, his Father, is our Father! We are his children. Therefore, we can count on him for everything.
When we lack strength, when a situation seems to be beyond our capacities, when all seems to be coming down around us, our Papa gives us the strength that we call "grace".
We are surprised each time. We do not react as we normally would have. Despite a conflict, our heart is at peace. Despite the hardship, we feel joy. Despite being hurt, we continue to love the other.
To follow Jesus is to walk, hand in hand, toward our Father. On this road or journey of a lifetime, he allows us to experience our difficulties, our inner struggles, our misery, our poverty. Why? To free us from them! He tears us away from the "power of darkness", our darkness – all that is black, all that makes us suffer.
After this tearing away, he gives us the opportunity to start over again, with him, on the path of love.
Love exists, despite all that we may hear. He is not dead. He is alive. All Christians live out of it.
What is Love?
Love is the strongest energy ever. God tells us how to live from a place of love in his commandments. But Jesus came to tell us that it is not enough to simply live a good life by observing the law; by his life and teachings, he came to reveal that we need to have a relationship of love with God and those around us above all else.
After his resurrection, Jesus went back to his Father to be able to spread his love all over the earth, into each one of us: we call this love Holy Spirit.
It is through this Spirit that we are endowed with certain strengths to be able to love. By Jesus and his teachings on the truth and life, and, by the Church who received the mission to stay close to us, we can learn all we need to know about ourselves, and life with others and in society.
In Sacred Scripture, Jesus tells us how to love. The Church draws from these teachings, and, helped by the Holy Spirit, educates us on the meaning of responsibility towards others and society, on the forming of our conscience and self criticism, on the virtues to acquire and the vices to avoid. In short, to follow Jesus is to learn how to listen to that small voice inside and to joyfully work on ourselves!
When we fall back into our weaknesses, it is Christ who picks us up. It is in following Jesus that we come to love him, as he loves us. His Spirit guides us, gives us strength we didn’t know we had, to continue to love freely.
"Do not be afraid to take the hand of Jesus and to follow" (Pope Francis)
To imitate Jesus in your life, you need to be familiar with his priorities. They are outlined in the "Beatitudes" (Matt 5: 3-12) :
Blessed are the poor in spirit…
Blessed are those who mourn…
Blessed are the meek…
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness…
Blessed are the merciful…
Blessed are the pure of heart…
Blessed are the peacemakers…
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness…
Blessed are they because Jesus is always by their side to help them get to heaven. We are all invited to freely choose this path to love God above all else, by doing good and avoiding evil. The more we do good, the more we become free.
Distinguishing Good From Evil
Through our ability to reason, each person is able to discern the good that they must accomplish and the evil that they must avoid. This is the natural moral law that is written in our heart that indicates to us what is good and what is evil.
We also need to listen to our conscience – the place where God speaks to us. To make good choices, we need to form a good conscience. Jesus gave his Church the mission to teach us the Truth and to give us guidelines to walk towards good with the Holy Spirit.
To encourage us to do good, our Creator placed in us passions and emotions. When we use them well, they become virtues – good habits. When we use them badly, they become vices and take our freedom away from us, a little at a time.
Striving for Sainthood
To respond to Jesus who tells us: "Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect " (Matt. 5:48), means that we need to improve ourselves. Through his Grace, God communicates with us and strengthens our human virtues – prudence, justice, strength and temperance. He gives us theological virtues; faith, hope and charity.
Besides our talents and our natural inclinations, we can count on the gifts of the Holy Spirit who helps us to become instruments of God in this world: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of God. For those people who let the Holy Spirit lead and teach them, we find qualities that are appreciated by all: charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, generosity, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity.
Everyone, at one time or another, ignores God and draws away from him voluntarily and consciously through sin: by word, action or desire which is opposed to the order established by the love of God. Our bad habits –our vices, bring darkness to our conscience and are attached to the capital sins: pride, greed, envy, anger, lust, gluttony and sloth.
All sin destroys me with its consequences and affects those close to me. Serious sin (mortal sin) can even cut me off entirely from the love of God; to heal this brokenness, I need to let myself be reconciled with God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this meeting with the mercy of God, he wants to forgive me all of my sins and reconnect with me.
Life in Society
Since we are all created in God’s image, which is an eternal exchange of love between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we are created for life in society. We need others and they need us. Individualism is contrary to our vocation as human beings.
We are all equal before God, nothing can take this dignity away from us, nor our equal rights. To rectify inequalities, God gave us different talents to be put to the service of others by charitable sharing of all material and spiritual things. It is a question of social justice and of the common good.
Governments and all citizens must work for the public good by actively participating in political, economic and cultural life. The most important is that the fundamental rights of the person are respected, and that all may live freely in peace and in safety – including all that is spiritual and religious.
Christians must commit to building just social structures. The rights of the family must be defended; nucleus of our society, which, for Christians, is a little church where children learn how to be open to life, to welcome other and be helpful.
When Christ is welcome in a family, it can become the leaven of renewal in society. To pass on faith is a gesture of solidarity towards others.
What would happen if everyone adopted Jesus’ way of living? Since living as he did is to love by giving oneself to God and to the service of others, what other result could there be but peace!
When questioned about the greatest commandment, Jesus responded: "You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your soul. That is the greatest and first commandment. The second is similar: You will love your neighbour as yourself" (Matt 22:37-40).
The new Law is a law of love, a sure guide to live a life that is morally good and responsible, with the help of grace. It is to his Church that Christ gave the responsibility to remind us of the demands of the natural moral law – applicable to all human beings – on our Christian life journey.
To be Christian is to observe the Commandments of God – also applicable to all human beings – while maintaining a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Here they are…
1. "I am the Lord your God. You will have no other gods before Me"...
Nothing and no one should come before God in our lives. Our absolute priority must be to know him better, and to serve and adore him. When we no longer love God as the Master of life and death, we look for other gods (money, power, success, beauty, etc.) and we risk falling into superstition (esotericism, spiritism, magic, the occult, fortune telling) which are not compatible with our Christian faith.
2. "You will not take the name of the Lord your God in vain"…
God, who is Truth, revealed his name to us so that we may trust him and have access to his heart. We cannot blaspheme God’s Name, swear or make false promises in his name without offending him.
3. "Keep holy the Sabbath day"...
Christians have replaced the Jewish Sabbath by Sunday because Jesus was resurrected from the dead on a Sunday. On that day, they rest and take part in the Mass to thank God, unite with him and be in communion with all those who are saved.
4. "Honor your father and your mother"…
Love, gratefulness and respect are owed to our biological parents and to those to whom we owe our life, wellness, security and faith. As for parents, they have received their children as gifts from God; they must pass on to them their Christian faith.
5. "You shall not commit murder"…
Human life is a gift from God, sole Master of life and death. Our own life is but only entrusted to us; it is forbidden to do violence to our own bodies and to ruin our health. The following acts are also forbidden: homicide, induced abortion, suicide, self mutilation, self destruction, euthanasia.
6. "You shall not commit adultery"…
When he created man and woman, God intended them to be united to each other in marriage for life. He intended erotic and sexual pleasure so that they would bond to each other even more in love, and that children would be born of their love. This commandment is not only about adultery but also about other questions: sexual relations before marriage, common-law relationships, divorce, masturbation, pornography, prostitution, rape, fornication, homosexuality, birth control, and assisted procreation.
7. "You shall not steal"…
We must strive to make this world more just and more human, not taking anything away from anyone and by sharing the riches of the earth, protecting Creation and conserving natural resources. This commandment addresses and qualifies the following questions: private property, intellectual property, taxes, speculation, games of chance, buying and selling of humans, social doctrine of the Church, democracy, capitalism, work and unemployment, globalization, underdevelopment and poverty, etc.
8. "You will not bear false witness against your neighbour"…
This concerns not lying; that is to avoid speaking or acting, consciously or deliberately against the truth. We need to ask three questions before sharing information: is it true? Is it good? Is it useful?
9. "You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife"…
To say no to disordered desires is to preserve conjugal and family life by not playing with fire. Purity of heart is acquired by being connected to God in prayer.
Modesty protects intimacy, dignity, the capacity to love and to give of oneself.
10. "You shall not covet what belongs to your neighbour"…
Jealousy leads us to envy the well-being of others and their possessions, and may lead to theft, fraud, violence and injustice.
In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God is ready to forgive all the sins that arise from our refusal to live according to his Commandments. With him, it is always possible to start anew and to give Jesus a new chance to live his life in us. That is what it means to be saints!
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