Putting our faith into action changes us. We find our true selves, and discover that we are capable of more love than we had ever imagined. The only truly happy people are those who know how to serve.
by Fr. Richard Gill, L.C. | Source:
It´s a familiar scene for me, as I look across my desk at the young mother here for spiritual direction. Many women in her position are overwhelmed, pressed for time. They get to Sunday Mass, barely. It´s almost impossible for them to get enough sleep, let alone keep up with daily prayer.
This mother is unusual. She does a daily meditation, spiritual reading, examination of conscience, gets to Mass almost daily, and says the Rosary. But she has the same problem as the others: she´s unhappy, dry, and in a rut, from too much going, going, going.
So let´s try something else.
Too many of us get caught up in the search for a magic formula in the spiritual life to make us holy: certain prayers and practices that will do the trick. The prayers and devotions are wonderful so keep them up. But sanctity is not as simple as that. In a way, it´s simpler.
Keep in mind, the work of the spiritual life is not a self-improvement program - with "me" at the center, instead of Christ! Our vocation is worked out in the world, and our model is Jesus. Think of how and where Jesus "grew in wisdom and age and grace before God and men."
What is missing in my friend´s life is a way to put her faith and love into action. To grow in holiness, we must keep a strong prayer life in union with Jesus, and commit ourselves to serving our neighbor. I´m not just talking about volunteerism, as good a start as that might be, but real Gospel charity. At the Last Judgment, those who fall short will be those who never noticed or served the hungry, the naked, the imprisoned - the least of our brethren.
The late Cardinal O´Connor did active charity by cleaning bedpans every week in an AIDS hospice. Bill Simon, who made hundreds of millions on Wall Street, gave it all away and spent each Christmas with his family serving the homeless.
Hundreds of young Catholics go door-to-door as missionaries in our cities, week after week, as part of Youth for the Third Millennium. They offer to pray for people, share the joy of their faith, and witness to the truth. These kids come away changed, because they are sharing the most precious thing they have: their faith in Jesus. What greater gift can we give to another?
One of the most impressive families I know decided to adopt a girl from Mexico named Maria. Crippled, she was abandoned by her mother and staying at an orphanage. For fifteen years, this family has given her a home, unconditional love, a sense of her dignity and value as a person and a child of God. It has transformed all their family completely. They are living their faith in Christ.
Of course, that is something truly heroic that not every person or family could do. But out of love, every one of us can visit the shut-in next door regularly - even if she is a difficult person to get along with and we really can´t stand her. With Christian charity in action, every one of us can create a positive spirit where we work, speaking well of everyone, never gossiping, praising all the good the others do.
With love for the souls Christ died for, every one of us can take time to reach out to a fallen-away Catholic and help him find the way back home to the Church. This is what changes our hearts to be hearts like Christ´s. When we put our faith into loving action, it goes from theory to practice. This is the missing ingredient in the spiritual life of so many.
When we put our faith into action, we change other people and they come to understand the love of Christ for them. But, just as importantly, it also changes us. We find our true selves and discover that we are capable of more love and more giving than we had ever imagined. The only truly happy people are those who know how to give and sacrifice and serve. They understand what Jesus meant when he promised us a hundred-fold even in this life.
This article originally appeared in Faith & Family, the Magazine of Catholic Living. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.