Catholicism Is Not About Behavior, but Being
You may have heard of the book Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky, which is used in radical community organizing. I am sure you are aware of the fact it is dedicated to Lucifer because he was the first radical who though he lost the battle still ended up with his own kingdom. It has to be one of the most ignorant statements in academic circles—if you think of it.
How can someone build a just society emulating the embodiment of evil? The answer is simple, you can’t. A lot of the divisions in our country today are rooted in people unable to understand that simple idea as they put the tactics of Saul Alinsky into action against everything from the Church to local governments. But remember these people are conflict theorists which means they believe change is best brought about by turning the people against each other.
Today, in our gospel we see the exact opposite principle. We are not called to be simply good people, but rather our vocation is to live by the mind of Christ and be guided and led by his spirit in all we do. That is for all of us, the ordained and the laity in all places, including at home, at work and everywhere in between.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church even spells it out for us: The fruitfulness of the apostolate for ordained ministers as well as for lay people clearly depends on their vital union with Christ.
This means exactly what Jesus says, if we are not connected to him like a branch is connected to a vine, then we may be able to do good things in a human sense, but we cannot do the will of God, which is what we truly have a calling to do. So our vocation is to do more than just good actions, we have a calling to act through divine guidance.
Let me give you an another example. There is this rather unique principle that illustrates this. When one is fluent in another language and so he thinks in that language, his personality in that language will conform to the culture surrounding that language. People who may be more reserved when they speak English, maybe more outgoing when they speak the other language. This is a principle I have personally experienced.
Translating that to Christ, then we have a calling to be led by our deep connection to Christ so our way of being will automatically be different than if we are not in deep connection with Christ. The more we are in union with Christ, the more it will show in our way of being and acting.
What are the signs of this union or lack there of: It is in Galatians and called the Fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When we find ourselves really lacking in these things, it is also time to look at why that is happening.
The basic principle here is that Christ is converting us changing us and making us holy people.
There is another principle that is at play as well. When we put on the mind of Christ: then we see everything within that context. Even our understanding of the most disastrous elements of our life will be transformed in Christ and be a source of strength for us and others. Becoming rooted in Christ changes our whole way of looking at things and allows us to see the world around us differently than those who do not know Christ.
There is a reason for this. Christianity is not a system of morality. We do not follow a philosophy, we follow a person: Jesus Christ. In following that person, we discover not a way to live, but a way of being. The reality of who we truly are is deepened in our embracing more the ways of Christ of drawing closer to him as the branches draws their strength from the vine. This is the meaning of being a Christian. It is not about living a certain way, but about who we are in every aspect of our being. It is about understanding that we were created for eternal life. It is about understanding that we are human who have been not only touched by the divine but called into the divine.
This is a radically different understanding than simply living a philosophy or a way of being. Let me give you an example: The commandments tell us not to steal. Obviously, we shouldn’t, but an atheist understands the same thing. So why shouldn’t we steal? It is wrong, it is a crime, all of which are true and any atheist would agree. The other reason is that it runs against the core of whom we are as human beings.
Our stealing will hurt others to our short time benefit and long term destruction. Our stealing will also reveal us to be outside of our union with Christ for we commit an act that is separate from Christ and what he calls us to be. It undermines the meaning of our existence, hence why it is a commandment. The same can be said for every violation of the commandments from engaging in astrology to bearing false witness. Each of those acts separate us from Christ because they are acts that are caused by a disunion with Christ.
Christ is calling us to be in union with him and through His Holy Spirit to be infused with the divine wisdom that leads us to see, act and to be in ways that reflect our union with Christ.
That is what it means to be a Christian.
In Episode III of the Star Wars series which is the sixth movie: Anakin Skywalker stands before a barren molten planet and in his delusion boasts that all of it is his. Ironically, that is exactly the promise that Saul Alinsky makes in calling people to emulate Lucifer.
Christ promises us a whole way of being that brings us into eternal life fully human and fully alive. It is this promise we embrace by joining the branch which is Christ and allowing us to be infused by the holy spirit which the catechism describes as the life giving sap of that branch and we become everything He created us to be. (cf: CCC 1108)