Keep the Fires Burning
As Catholics, there are many things that we too easily take for granted. Our regular encounters with the Risen Christ begin to wash over us as something totally commonplace. Sunday Mass, the cornerstone of our week, is just another appointment on our calendar. Many of us struggle to keep the flame of faith alive.
I think this very real part of our human nature applies to almost every other aspect of our lives. We have an attention span that ebbs and flows. We long for Christmas morning to open our presents and to give gifts to our loved ones, but by Christmas afternoon, the excitement has faded. By March, it can be hard to remember what gifts we received. The further we get from Lent, Easter, or even our last Confession, the easier it is to commit sin. We stop thinking about the very real harm sin does to us and, more egregiously, the suffering it inflicts on our innocent and loving God. Married couples struggle with keeping the flame of their love alive. As the married life moves from the joy, pomp, and circumstance of their wedding day, life becomes quite ordinary. How do marriages endure the common and live a life wholly uncommon?
Two things must happen in order for us to fully embrace the life that we were made to live. First, we have to remove ourselves from the economy of emotion. Emotions are a double edged sword. They protect us, and at the same time, they're complete tyrants. If we base our feelings of self-worth on the shifting sands of emotions, we'll end up lost. The gauge of your faith life, your marital love, your friendships, or your dignity as a person cannot be built upon how you "feel" on a particular day. Instead, we must focus on growing in humility. It's only in serving that we're most alive. By focusing on others instead of ourselves, we can know that we're living a full life.
Second, we must give much more than we get. This is, in essence, the basis of marriage. You give 100% for your wife, and her needs are met. She gives 100% for you and your needs are met. This goes way beyond mutual back-scratching. This is an intense and enduring desire to be fully in the service of your wife, carrying her burdens on your shoulders and easing her pain. This is the love of Christ, who gave everything He had: His name, His reputation, His home, and His life so that we might live.
As we turn outward and live lives of stewardship and service, we'll become better people, our family will grow stronger, and our interactions with Christ in the Mass, Sacraments, Church, and the people that we meet will no longer be commonplace. Instead, they'll be rejuvenating encounters that will encourage us to seek constant renewal.