by William Deatherage, Executive Director
“Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness,” (Rom 8:8-11).
Internship season is approaching, bringing with it a classic paradox: your potential employer wants to see that you have experience when you really don’t have any. Likewise, God wants us to please Him, yet it’s impossible to do so without His gift of grace. So, how do we please God?
Like any good employer, Jesus presents us with an array of opportunities to prove ourselves that may seem intimidating at first. Like any good applicant, it is important to have a keen eye for moments in which we can truly shine before the One who matters most. These moments flash before our eyes every day, and our struggle to identify them demonstrates a fatal flaw in human nature: We get bored too easily. Between material distractions and the mundanity of work, we often fail to see the beauty of God’s goodness that is constantly presented to us. God throws His glory in our face, and yet, like blind men, we often fail to see. When we do catch glimpses of God’s glory, we can easily be overcome by fear and agony at the prospect of the suffering that comes from cooperating with God’s grace.
“’Let us also go to die with Him’” (Jn 11:1-45). These are the words of St. Thomas, the same “Doubting Thomas,” who seems convinced that a return to Judea will result in their untimely deaths. In the Gospels, we see, time and time again, that the Apostles, the chosen followers of Christ, fail to put their trust in His love and grace, usually resulting in their humiliation. The Bible frequently shows us that Baptism is not enough. Yes, it indelibly sets us apart as God’s people, but it does not free us from sin altogether. Even in Baptism, we are the same human beings with the same tendencies to sin, and we cannot let piety turn into pride as we fail to recognize the opportunities that God has given us to act with Him.
“With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption,” (Ps 130). Our failures are not unforgivable. We must remember the astonishing frequency at which the Israelites rejected God. No man was impervious to falling out of grace, as even the greatest of kings, David and Solomon, had their tragic moments of sin. Despite the human race’s constant misdeeds, God still promises us redemption and invites us to live in His light. The challenge that Baptism presents us with entails an active awareness of the opportunities God presents us with, so that we might fully participate in redemptive acts.
What does it mean to live? Is life a mere continuity of our biological functions, or is there something greater at play? St. Paul describes us as “dead” because of our sin. And sin, being habitual, is most dangerous when we are unaware of it. Every day, when we go through the motions without greater contemplation of our actions, we risk falling into habits of sin. Such sin deceives us and cuts us off from Christ, the only life. By remaining unaware of our actions and failing to recognize God’s beauty, we contribute to our ultimate demise: death.
The saying goes that “retirement kills.” We humans enjoy keeping ourselves busy because when we work, we participate in God’s work. We engage with the actual grace that leads to fullness: the same grace that will raise us from the dead (Ezekiel).
So, when Christ invites us to participate in His goodness, we are obligated to act, even if it brings us temporary pain or discomfort. But before we act, we must be aware of our selves and our surroundings. Anything else takes us down the valley of death.