Dear Discerning Young Catholic,
Underachieving in the realm of morality has become so commonplace in our world that we have begun to pretend that sin is transcendent behavior just to make ourselves feel better. There is nothing transcendent about sleeping with someone on the first date, but these days an astounding number of romance movies begin “romance” with a couple sleeping together shortly after meeting. If we wanted to live out of our most base desires, what better way than to pretend that transcendent values, like love, support doing whatever we feel in the moment, rather than assuming the agony and predictability of daily sacrifice?
But as people who believe in Jesus, we know the world’s attitude about transcendence is a lie. Our values do not have to be a poor projection of our lowest selves. We know this, not because we believe in our own capacity to grit our teeth and rise above our own naturally self-seeking behavior. We believe this because we know a God who experienced our human limitations, emotions, and needs, and transformed them to be in union with His values.
In fact, Jesus did not just have values. He is values. Goodness. Truth. Beauty. Jesus did not just live these things; he is these things. If we want a lesson in living a life of transcendence, we can look to Jesus. His human nature was in perfect unity with divine nature. By his death and resurrection, Jesus lifted our human nature up to kiss divine nature, giving us the opportunity for grace to become like him. This is the reason we have hope that we can live a transcendent life, reach beyond ourselves and become mature, holy, self-sacrificing people who are full of love for God and neighbor.
Why is all this particularly important for any young man or woman considering religious life? Because religious life is an impossible scheme if we give in to the world’s doubt that it is possible to live a life based on transcendent values. What is a life without money, without a spouse, without independence? To most, it would be a living jail. This can be true, unless one lives these choices from a place of openness, love, and freedom that is in union with God; then we glimpse divine life, a taste of heaven on earth. But this heaven requires sacrifice and sometimes, if not always, it requires superseding our immediate wants to live more transcendent values.
We will all live life imperfectly, whether married, priest or religious. Striving for perfection, imperfectly, is a good definition of the Christian life, and particularly religious life. We do not join as saints, we become saints. But isn’t it, in a way, beautiful that we are imperfect? If we did not have a tendency to sin, we would not need God. One of the greatest Saints of our time, St. Thérèse, said, “How happy I am to see myself imperfect and having so great a need of receiving the mercy of God at the moment of death!” It is our sinfulness that leads us to throw ourselves into the arms of God, and what better place to be than in the arms of God?
Striving for holiness in the form of religious life, choosing to live in the Heart of Jesus while still on earth, does not leave a person feeling penniless, loveless, and powerless. No, it leaves one rich, loved, and full of peace. In order to live life to the full, to truly live our values, we are called to leave our perceived needs, wants, and haunting fears behind. God will fill our needs, assuage our fears, and give us more than we could ever imagine. But we have to take the leap in order to find the proof that God will catch us.
Praying for you,
Another Discerning Young Catholic