Getting Beyond “Almost There”

As Catholics, we come with simple instructions. Meaning that, with the Gospel and all the Church teachings that we have and rely upon, we are supposed to be able to tell right from wrong, good from evil relatively easily. Of course, it always depends on the issue. But the very fact that we’ve been granted with that much of a privilege, should fill us with joy and confidence. It also should make us equipped and well-prepared when it comes to a daily process of combing through the hazardous ocean of modern secular realities (I do believe, we are now living in a world that is divided into multiple realities). I am sure that we all experience this to some extent.

So, what does it imply? Let us ask ourselves, are we even aware of what it has to do with the responsibilities that we ought to take on? It turns out that sometimes faith proves to be quite a heavy weight to carry if you miss out one very specific understanding. I know, it may sound far-fetched. But I speak from my personal experience. For example, as Catholics we believe there is one truth when it comes to our belief system and questioning moral grounds. When it comes to the big moral questions, we cannot be pretty much sure about something. We cannot ‘kinda agree’ or ‘sorta disagree’ with something. We cannot be on the edge; we can never be ‘almost there’. Because, if we are, if we employ such half-truths and wishy-washy tactics, this type of framework will lead us to uncertainty, ambiguity and to an eventual failure to discern.

A secular worm will start gnawing our belief system. It’s hard to notice and the wounds are hard to heal. And there’s also another side to this matter. For whatever reason, we often think that being a Catholic in 2018 is like taking a stand. We confuse ourselves and think that we are almost heroes when it comes to showing our worship and faithfulness to God to other people, Christians or non-Christians or atheists.

For any reason, we start to think that ministry, volunteer work and engagement in our parishes lives makes it OK for us to feel holy and proud. In reality, it looks very weird. A bus driver doesn’t feel that way only because he drives a bus. That is his job. That is a minimum. That is a prerequisite to a purposeful life. Yes, it is important. But all in all, that is what he is supposed to do.

Same approach applies to our Christian views and values when it comes to ministry, evangelization and what not. This is what we as Catholics are supposed to do. We are supposed to engage in our parish life, we are supposed to evangelize, we are supposed to volunteer and serve others. This is our job. And it’s not just a day job. It’s not a 5/2 type a thing that we need to maintain in order to support ourselves and our families and put food on the table to feed our kids. It’s a 24/7 job that we need to do in order to be able to feed ourselves and our families with Christ and to support our future lives with Jesus. We must do it. And we must do it well. And that is just a minimum! That is just something that cannot be avoided or ignored, something that we as Catholics cannot pass on, because that’ll be passivity. And, as Father Mike Schmitz recently said in one of his beautiful homilies, passivity has a price and that price is going to hell. You cannot be fired from this job, but you may quit.

There is this popular quote by Pope Benedict XVI – “You were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” And we have exploited it so badly. It’s one of those quotes now that you print on T-shirts, make tattoos with, and put in your twitter bio. Do we even understand what that “greatness” means? Doing your job well has nothing to do with the greatness Pope Benedict XVI was talking about. I am 100% positive on that.

Here is how I see this. What can make us holier is something we do on top of all that. What can make it OK for us to feel proud is saved souls. And it has to do with the amount of effort that we put into our mission. It has to do with dedication and sacrifice. It has to do with giving away what we think we need for ourselves, rather than just stopping at the point when we can give away what we are OK with losing. There is a direct correlation. Because all Catholics are missionaries, which brings us back to the issue that I started with.

We come with simple instructions. Supposedly, we can tell good from bad. But that’s not what matters eventually, because it is just a tool. What matters is our mission. So, we need use tools to succeed in our mission. What matters, is those who are waiting for us to reach them and give them what they really need and not just what we would allow ourselves to get rid of.

Let’s not bamboozle ourselves into feeling false comfort by claiming our responsibility something that levels us up to greatness. Let’s not mix up the presence of the Holy Spirit with the pleasure of being satisfied with okay-ness. If we are to boil this down to its very essence, let’s stop being ‘almost there’.

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Nikolay Syrov is a Ukrainian Catholic living in Moscow, Russia. He writes for Russian Catholic media (рускатолик.рф) and runs two podcasts about faith and the presence of the Catholic Church in Russia: RusCatholic Podcast (in Russian) - Walking Russian (in English) - He's now working on his first book, a collection of essays on biblical studies. twitter - @walkingrussian

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