The Catholic Moment: Struggling So As To Someday Soar
Thursday, February 26, 2009
By Scott Mussari
Many of us attempt to avoid conflicts, confrontations and controversies at all costs. We go out of our way to elude and evade these types of conditions because we regard them as too painful and too awful, and we fail to see any benefits associated with them. We stay away from the relative who recites each of our faults in alphabetical order at every family gathering. We steer clear of the coworker who is all too ready to offer advice on how we can look leaner, eat healthier, work harder or act friendlier. We shy back from situations where we are forced to come face to face with difficulties and hardships.
This is extremely evident with regards to our faith. We seek a feel-good spirituality that is warm and fuzzy so we can remain content and complacent and never really be pushed to conversion. Hearing about the many gifts we have and how we ought to share them with others, is a message we generally want to ignore. Listening to ways in which we can improve our prayer habits or develop a self reflective outlook through more disciplined and purposeful practices, is a plan we typically do not wish to partake in. Being made aware of areas in our faith life we could and should improve upon, is quite frankly usually not where we desire to be.
No, we would much rather subscribe to a religion that is more safe and sanitized so we might remain free from any accountability. By keeping our Catholicism floating in the castle in the sky false world of rainbows and butterflies, we can shelter ourselves from any true responsibility back down here in the real world. Yet even with butterflies, there lies the beauty of adversity, and therefore the opportunity for transformation.
A butterfly must strain and suffer, before it can emerge from its cocoon. It has to experience this struggle, to enable itself and its wings to fully strengthen and develop. This is God’s way of preparing the butterfly for its new life of flight. It is only by exerting great effort, that the butterfly can break free from what is literally preventing it from being a creature who can fly to the highest heights, which is what our Creator dreamed it could be.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives too. If God were to give us everything we need for an easy and effortless existence, we might not mature to our fullest potential. We might not ever become as strong as we could have been. We might never be able to soar ourselves.
There is actually a tremendous amount of growth possibility when we are in the midst of demanding and strenuous situations. Dealing with circumstances that are unfamiliar and uneasy to us, challenge our comfort zone and thereby compel us to relook and reexamine what we have often overlooked, ignored or even simply taken for granted.
When we do focus on our inner person, we see the evil that exists. It is by embracing this arduousness we are able to own up to our sinfulness and thereby can strive towards the grueling and thorny task of weeding it out. Admitting we are not perfect and acknowledging there are relationships we can be more loving in, behaviors we can be more compassionate with, and habits we can be more giving through, is a means to working towards changing our ways.
For Lent is the liturgical season which calls us to take a penitential perspective of who we are. It is the time to take on the tiring task of conveying regret and remorse for our failings, through taking up our crisis of the cross. The cross points to God in all directions and it leads us to the path of how we can find the Lord.
Christ did not turn away from the cross, but rather turned toward it and endured it. Jesus’ Passion (which stems from the root word of suffering) might be regarded by some as too violent and disturbing and thus unnecessary and unworthy of dwelling upon. However, the complete joy of Easter can be neither comprehended nor appreciated without first surviving through the sacrifice and pain of Good Friday. This Lent, how well will we follow the cross and allow its shadow to illuminate the dark and difficult aspects of our lives that we might endure and rise through?
Scott Mussari is the Director of Faith Formation at St. Columban Church in Loveland and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org