The Turner Classic Movies channel often presents the world in black and white. So does the History Channel when it airs newsreels from the 30's and 40's. Television in its infancy did the same thing. I find old movies, newsreels and television shows very interesting. When channel surfing, I usually pause for The Philadelphia Story, an RKO short on the 1936 Presidential Campaign, or an episode of Leave It to Beaver.
Fascinating as these productions may be (at least to some of us), they do not present life as it was. Back then, people experienced life in the rich palette of colors God created, even as we do now.
But even in this age of high-definition television, many people still see life in black and white. The problem is not with the reception of their television sets but rather with the receptivity of their minds and hearts. In the words of Saint Paul, they have failed to set their hearts on what is above and have focused them only on what pertains to this world (see Colossians 3:1-2). In doing so, they are missing a whole dimension of their existence. They are missing out on the things of the Spirit. Rich and colorful as they feel their experience to be, it lacks the luster of God's glory. And life lived without the spiritual dimension is more unreal than the grainy silent films of the early 1920's.
People who are successfully engaged with career, family, financial security, community charities, and favorite pastimes might feel that their lives are, in the words of the worn phrase, "the real deal." Newly-hatched Moms and Dads, who are working many jobs just to make ends meet, may feel they are too busy to worry about whether or not they are experiencing life as completely as they should.
But sooner or later the question has to be faced. Where am I headed? Is my life for real? What is its ultimate meaning?
We all know of people who have been immersed in the so-called real world but then became disconnected with reality. This can take many forms. We think of dictators who, in their pursuit of power, forgot that they were mortals and perpetrated unimaginable crimes against humanity. We think of business leaders who, in their pursuit of wealth, were blinded by excess and ended up losing everything. We also think of people who achieved astonishing success at an early age. Not yet eligible to join AARP, they are searching for what to do with the rest of their lives. So often I have met people who seemed to have it all together when suddenly their marriages and working relationships came apart. And even without some catastrophic event in our lives, all of us, sooner or later, will have to grapple with the ultimate meaning of our lives.
Our Catholic faith teaches that Christ holds the key to the mystery of our human existence. He is the one who unlocks the true meaning and dignity of our lives, collectively and individually. After all, Jesus is the Son of God by whom the world in all its wonder was made. And some 2,000 years ago, He became one of us so that, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we would know and share in the love He shared with His Father from all eternity.
If we really believe that God sent His Son into the world to share our lives and then to suffer, die, and to rise for us, then we have to look at life in a whole new way. It is a way of hope and joy that gives color, depth, and real perception to our experience of daily life.
Most of us are not called (though some are) to monasteries to lead contemplative lives. But those who do spend much of their day in contemplative prayer remind us that life cannot be adequately experienced apart from the brilliance of God's glory shining on the face of the risen Christ (see II Corinthians 4:6).
But God's glory can light up the lives of all of us who live in this world and are fully engaged in vocations, occupations, and avocations. And this can happen so long as we are in this world but not of this world!
A few examples might help clarify how we can allow the light of the knowledge and love of God to shine on our daily lives and help us see its deeper meaning.
I recall a conversation I had with a busy executive many years ago. He told me proudly that he tried to "catch Mass" once a month. I told him that once a month he did the right thing! Going to church each Sunday doesn't automatically open the eyes of our soul to the reality of the spiritual, but it sure helps. Even more helpful is daily Mass, and I would urge you to consider this practice, not just during Lent but throughout the year. If we go to Mass to listen intently to God's word and to allow Christ to touch our lives with His redeeming love, we will be changed and will find ourselves looking at our lives in a whole new way.
To help deepen your understanding of the Mass, I would suggest that you invest in a daily Missal or subscribe to Magnificat, a wonderful monthly publication that includes not only the readings and prayers of the Mass but also beautiful reflections appropriate to the liturgy, together with morning and evening prayer.
But Sunday Mass and even daily Mass are not enough. We also need to allow the light of God's glory to shine on the dim and shabby parts of our lives and then to confess our sins and receive absolution. In that way, we will reflect more clearly the beauty of God's love in our inmost attitudes and in the sort of decisions we make each day at home, at work, or among our friends.
We also need to spend time studying God's Word and really learning our faith, especially the Church's moral and social teaching. Many parishes have Scripture study groups and adult education programs. The Saint Cyril of Jerusalem School for Catechists, run by our diocesan Office of Christian Formation, is a wonderful resource for teachers in parish religious education programs and in our Catholic schools. Our newly-forming Young Adult Ministry aims at communicating a deeper knowledge of and love for the faith to Catholics in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.
Once we know what our faith is really all about, we won't look at the political process in quite the same way. We will bring to the public square and even to the ballot box a stronger sense of the worth and dignity of each human person. We will want to help shape a culture and society inspired by coherence, truth, goodness, and beauty of the One who made us and redeemed us. We must bring to the political process a rightly-formed conscience that gives us depth and insight into the choices we are called upon to make in our democracy.
So these 40 days of Easter, now speeding by us, are a wonderful and grace-filled opportunity to trade in a dark and unreal perception of life for the brilliance of the truth, hope, and joy of a life lived in the Holy Spirit.
May we allow the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to the brilliance of Christ, the light of the world!
This column is credited to Fairfield County Catholic monthly magazine.
back to top | home