January 21, 2017
When the late Christopher Lasch wrote his landmark book “The Culture of Narcissism” 30 years ago, many people misunderstood it. A quick reading gave the impression that Lasch was criticizing modern egotism and self-indulgence. But his real point was a lot more troubling. Lasch believed that modern consumer culture is a shell game. The mass media create the illusion that we’re, each of us, sovereign individuals; that we create our own values and lifestyles; that our opinions really matter; and that products and corporations exist to benefit our lives because we “deserve” it.
Real faith demands courage; it creates a holy restlessness about our own sins and the suffering and needs of others. The real Christian knows that baptism is a mandate to act, not consume; that our lives have a purpose larger than ourselves; that our choices do matter immensely, but not because we create their meaning; that we actually “deserve” very little on our own merits and that God’s love is a free, unearned gift we have a duty to share. The defining qualities of every mature Catholic life are gratitude, not greed; and confidence in Jesus Christ, not cowardice or false compromise with an unbelieving world. Love, as Scripture tells us, casts out fear; but it does much more than that: It replaces fear with strength because— to quote St. Paul—“the love of Christ impels us” (2 Cor 5:14).
If we really believe in Jesus Christ—as St. Paul did—we already have the most important thing we need. In fact, St. Paul’s epistles, his missionary zeal and his extraordinary passion for God are testimony to what one person, living with conviction, can accomplish. Jesus Christ redeemed us on the cross. But God used St. Paul to take that good news to the world—as we now must.
How do we do that? We don’t need to work in the foreign missions to follow in the footsteps of St. Paul. We can be missionaries right here, in the mundane circumstances God places us. We need to be people of daily prayer and regular worship. We need to show God’s patience and love to the persons we meet on an everyday basis—our families, our coworkers and strangers on the street. Furthermore, in this Year of St. Paul, it’s especially fitting to constantly deepen our knowledge of the faith by reading, study and adult as well as youth formation.
God Bless, Fr. Dan