In the reading from St. Paul’s letter to Titus which is our second reading today, he instructs Titus how to teach the people to live the Catholic faith. He writes: “For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,” Why must we do that.
Let us understand the bigger picture here. First this is not a unilateral explanation. We do not simply live as Catholics because that is what we are supposed to do. When we turn from worldly ways, which are also known as sin, then we turn to the ways of God. When we do this, as you will find in every book of the Bible, we grow in wisdom. We discover a new view to our existence and we start living our lives differently than those living in the world. That different way of living communicates this same wisdom to others. It reveals Christ and His wisdom to others by our living it.
This is an essential part of practicing our Catholic faith.
Let me give you an analogy: I love all types of music. My favorite is traditional Jazz of which I am a great fan. I even had the experience of sitting in the famous Keystone Corner in San Francisco watching a live performance of Jackie MacLean and Roy Haines and just be boppin’ with my friend to the whole scene. We were sailors and had just arrived earlier in the day from Long Beach. We were tired because we also walked around San Francisco looking for the Keystone Corner. So, I actually fell asleep and woke up a couple minutes later and I discovered the music was so good I was be boppin’ before I fell asleep, and when I woke up, so I must have been be boppin’ in my sleep.
I could never have heard one note of Jazz, not even a blue note, if I only listened to pop music or the AOR music I enjoyed as well. That is similar to the principle St. Paul teaches about being people of faith. When we turn from those things of the world and turn to Christ, we grow in a new understanding of the world around us allowing ourselves to be transformed in Christ. St. Paul also teaches this in Romans. In Romans 12:2 he calls us to have a renewal of our minds. I call Romans 12 the Christian Desiderata.
There is another reason why we must do this. The more we grow in the wisdom to which God calls us, the more we live differently than those who live in the world and the more our lives become a testament to the reality of Christ, which is what we are called to do.
However, this living differently not only means attending Mass on weekends. It also means living prophetically. That means living in a way that challenges our culture around us. The simple act of attending Mass on Sundays is one way we do this, but it is one of many.
Yet again, I heard a famous politician complain that the days for the lay people to pray and pay, he said, are over. It has never been Catholic teaching that lay people must pay, pray and obey, in fact, you receive a commission to preach the word by your life at the end of your baptism.
Our growth in wisdom leads us to grow in love, but a prophetic love. This means that we need to grow in that love in a way that may be different than a worldly understanding of love.
We need to challenge the current understanding of what it means to love others all the time. This is also the point of being Catholic. Since we live by a growing understanding of the wisdom of God, we grow in our ability to challenge the culture in the form of love.
Let me give you something to consider. You go to work every day and there is one person who bothers you intensely. When I was in the seminary, there was another seminarian there and the two of us just did not get along for the longest time, eventually we became friends.
Now take that person whom you do not like and consider all that he or she does that makes your time at work miserable. He or she is the person who when he or she gets the flu, you celebrate the three or four days this co-worker is absent from the office. The person is not being abusive but irritating. Maybe over competitive or cynical or negative. Now consider this scenario: imagine God speaking to you and giving you a deal. He will explain that this person is a difficult person and He can eliminate him or her from your life or you can patiently deal with what this person does that irritates you. If you do the latter, God will take your efforts at patiently dealing with the person, not tolerating harassing behavior, but patiently dealing with what this person does that bothers you. God adds that you patiently dealing with him or her will be your prayer that will ensure the salvation of this person and/or others, would you agree to God’s deal?
That is the mindset that St. Paul was talking about. It is a mindset that focuses on whom we are as Catholics that changes how we live in the world and it is the mindset that was Jesus’ when he said yes to the Father.