In a very secularized society, many of us do not want to be publicly identified as religious people. In a very judgmental world, those who like to call and identify themselves as “committed” believers, tend to be very radical and vocal in their ideologies, approaches, condemnations, and worldviews. Because of what these extremists have shown in the past through their actions, many Christians have become reserved, and at times, too, afraid of showing their true faith. Many are scared of being labeled as outdated, crazy, close-minded, anti-science, stupid, or sheepish that they slowly allowed their faith to become secondary, on the back burner, and something that should not be talked about. Since many of us are so scared of being labeled as extreme, hating, intolerant, and insensitive people, we have often denied ourselves the true joy of living in this world as children of God and allowing our faith to change this world with genuine love and service.
Because of self-justified and egocentric so-called believers, many are scared of being labeled as devout, religious, and faithful believers. We have allowed those who are vocal, self-centered, or extreme in missing the real goal, mission, purpose, and understanding of our Christian vocations to deter us from living out genuine discipleship and faith-filled service of our neighbors. Furthermore, we have allowed the world to tell us that religion is a man-made oppression and an outdated set of stupid obstructions to true human freedom. Over and over again, we find people telling us that true freedom is the ability to do whatever we want! Hence, the divine commandments and Church‘s teachings on the moral and virtuous life have been deemed as obstacles and hindrances toward this true human freedom. As a matter of fact, the extreme secularistic understanding of freedom demands that we shed all of our old-style and outdated understanding of obedience and docility because these two things are deemed as enslaving us from our true “potential” in this post-modern day and age.
Nonetheless, what we often end up with this way of thinking is extreme hedonism and secularism that has no real life-giving foundation and depth, just like the fanatical version of religious extremism. Both, even though look radically different, are actually very similar to one another, because both are dependent on our self-will, created, and egocentric desire of defining whatever we want life to be! Both sides pick and choose what they like to adhere to so they can choose what fits their vision; but, both lack docility, obedience, and humility to allow the will of God to change them. Sadly, but true, all forms of extremism manipulate and objectify God and people to get what one wants at all costs. Practitioners of both extremisms never humbled themselves to conform their lives to Him because they desire to be in control at all costs.
Egocentric control and narcissistic obsession with power are our real problems! Too many of us do not want true freedom nor ever really sought it. We constantly allow ourselves to chase after vain or empty things like addicts, thinking that we are in control but we are really not. Too many like to use God‘s words to serve our depraved purpose of self-justification, egocentric righteousness, and selfish or depraved vision. We might be free to do whatever we want for a moment, but all those things we ever achieved or tried will end up leaving us empty and restless. We might be justified, thinking that we are better than others, because we are righteous and real, but we are nothing more than little people who hide behind our small, fragile ego that likes to make themselves important. Both extremities of secularism and religious fanaticism are false because they are both self-serving. Real freedom has to be in conformity to the truths revealed to us by God, and challenges us to grow, humble ourselves, and become who we truly are. True freedom frees us from our very ego and the enslavement of this world because we are detached from our innate desire to be in control in order to do what we are called to do by our very own nature as children of God.
We cannot truly be free if we disobey the truth or reject whatever is contrary to the common and greater good, especially through what God has commanded us to do and the Church teaches us through her magisterium, or else we simply end up serving ourselves. If we only want to do whatever we want or justify ourselves with false righteousness, our souls will have no roots and bear no real fruits because we do not give life by our words and actions, lives and deeds. If we only serve ourselves or whatever we would like to project our self-righteousness to be, those matters will actually destroy and take away from the truth of who we are deep from within because they violate our very purpose of loving God who has given us life with greater purpose, mission, vocation, and eternity.
If we only serve ourselves or pervert the truth to manipulate others and get what we want, we will forever be stuck in our own pitiful, self-created hellish, short, momentary, vain, but destructive moments of passing happiness and nothingness. It is erroneous to refuse to do what is true because it prevents us from seeking the transcendence, eternal, and everlasting truth that comes from God. That way of life leads us to sin because it destroys us and who we are deep from within. Sin is often the result of our own folly, arrogance, or self-dependency because we choose to disobey God who has given us life and is the true joy of human nature.
Our Catholic understanding of the human person, vocation, and destiny does not deprive us of our personal gifts, blessings, treasures, beauties, and vast richness endowed to us by our Creator. What is beautiful is that we are created with different gifts and talents to build up the Kingdom of God. From the richness of the Creator‘s love and providence, we are able to complement one another; and with our free will, willingly and personally choose to love God in return and serve Him with our entirety.
If we actually open up our hearts through a life of prayer, meditation, discernment, and loving truth, we will be able to be transformed by the overwhelming gifts and outpouring graces of the Holy Spirit. The life-giving and loving Spirit draws us to Himself and endows us with unimaginable blessings and radical love to become more like Christ each day. Just like the Apostles at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit changes us to act and live beyond ourselves, without concern for worldly honors, powers, benefits, or self-serving motives. At the same time, He will keep us focused and sane, above the lies, vanities, and empty promises of this world so we can truly be free, which is something that this world can never understand or really give us. In becoming more like Christ, we can truly be loving children of God our Father in genuine acts of charity and service to our brothers and sisters without counting the costs.
When we really know who we are and are able to live in freedom as children of God, we are able to keep our attention on what is truly life-giving, deter from empty promises and vain glories, come back to the Lord if we get distracted or lose our attention, and able to purify, transform, and detach ourselves from the hopeless lies of this passing world. The life of discipleship and pursuit of the truth is not something we would naturally want to seek because the allurements and temptations of this world are real; therefore, we have to personally choose to discipline, conform, and be changed by His loving grace. We have to desire to open ourselves up to His loving grace, finding the opportunities to rest, pray, reflect, discern, and receive Him in silence, docility, transparency, and genuineness of heart. Only when we order our lives in His truth can true peace comes and gives us rest deep from within the innermost being, the most intimate and loving heart of heart, the meeting ground of our soul with God who loved us into being and the One who we truly desire. This is hard to achieve, and we will lose sight of it at times, but we will know how to return to it once our soul knows it! Truly, nothing in this world can compare to what it means to be loved by God, to really be free and able to live as we truly are as His sons and daughters.