Daring Not Staring: Our Charge to Live Boldly

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Nelson Mandela declared, “Sometimes, I feel like one who is on the sidelines, who has missed life itself.” Do you ever feel like life is go going by without your being engaged with reality? Are you in a stupor or continual state of lethargy? Is it easier to sit on the sidelines and stare in judgment at the characters in your life that wronged you than it is to actively seek opportunities to change your life?

Do you worry if you answered yes to any of these questions—I myself often reflect on these issues and frequently I feel like a static character in the story of my life! Humans desire fulfillment in life. Yet, there is a tension between the ideal we strive for—embracing challenges with resolve— and the reality that life sometimes bogs us down and weariness set in.

C.S. Lewis purported, “Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.” As a perfectionist, an internal struggle exists within my heart and mind over action versus inaction in daily situations. Oftentimes, when I make a great mistake, whether it be at work or home, I freeze—I regulate myself to the sidelines of life. Failure can either sow fruit or decay. Your attitude toward adversity is key as to whether disappointments lead to opportunity to a continued cycle of idleness on the sideline.

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My Catholic faith strongly colors how I approach strife and difficulty in life. However, I continually need to be reminded that transformation occurs through daring to live authentically instead of simply staring, remaining still and being pessimistic when sins of others affect my life. In his general audience on Holy Wednesday, April 16, 2014 Pope Francis urged Catholics [and the entire world],

We expect that God, in his omnipotence, will defeat injustice, evil, sin and suffering with a triumphant divine victory. Instead, God shows us a humble victory that in human terms seems to be a failure. And we can say this: God wins in failure. Indeed, the Son of God on the Cross appears to be a defeated man. He suffers, He is betrayed, He is vilified, and finally dies. But Jesus allows evil to set upon Him, He takes it all upon Him in order to vanquish it. His Passion is not incidental; his death — that death — was ‘foretold.’ It is an unsettling mystery, but we know the secret of this mystery, of this extraordinary humility: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.’ [Emphasis mine]

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I came across a person who questioned the goodness of this life. Rejecting the notion that our earthly existence is a gift, she emphatically declared, “Eternal life is the gift, Earthly life is an insane asylum, and all the patients run free!” A bold claim—this lady was half-right. While the fullness of truth, joy, and beauty is founded in complete relationship with God in Heaven, goodness can still be discovered in the created order. The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 34 contains this truth,

The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality ‘that everyone calls God’.

Along with the inherent goodness of creation, the Catholic Church clearly teaches the dignity of all life, “Every human life, from the moment of conception until death, is sacred because the human person has been willed for its own sake in the image and likeness of the living and holy God” (CCC 2319). I challenged that individual I encountered to seek the joy within this reality—even in the midst of apparent [and oftentimes real] suffering! Some people may desire to flee from suffering or difficulty.

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Rushing to the sidelines in the middle of the game-of-life is the easy option. Is it truly the best strategy in life? Maybe in the short-term. In the long-run, in the end-game, daring to engage in life—both the high and lows—as opposed to staring from the sidelines is the preferred method.

St. Cyprian of Carthage boldly proclaimed the value of mettle in face of trials, “This, in short, is the difference between us and others who know not God, that in misfortune they complain and murmur, while the adversity does not call us away from the truth of virtue and faith, but strengthens us by its suffering.” Put another way, the hockey legend Wayne Gretzsky succinctly said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

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Do not miss an opportunity to live life to the fullest. Seize the chance to put others before yourself. Be bold in picking up your cross and follow Christ’s command in Mark 12:31, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The joy found in selfless and bold living will be immeasurable. Follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit to better your life. I dare you!

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3 Reasons Why Christians Need to Always Err on the Side of Mercy

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“Why are you purposefully making errors?” Should we not put the customer first instead of individual metrics? Why does she [my wife] refuse to help around the house? Do my children live to make life difficult?  These questions bombarded my mind over the course of the past few weeks while at work and home. The roots of impatience and capricious thoughts grew in my heart.

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Today, I made time during my breaks and after work to reflect on my anxieties, worries, and fears. Slowing down to ponder the effects of my actions [or inactions] allowed me to realize the message of Psalm 103 is not merely a pious saying, but rather it is essential to incorporate mercy into daily living! According to the Psalmist, “Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger, abounding in mercy” (Psalm 103:8). Rooted in compassion, mercy is what all Christians are compelled to show their fellow neighbors at all times.

Admittedly, I fail at this goal each and every day. I lash out in anger when my children do not listen to my directions, I am quick to judge my co-workers mistakes as failings, and I fail love my wife—each and every day—as Christ loved the Church! Below are three reasons why Christians need to display mercy daily!

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  1. Work Sanctifies: A turning point in my spiritual journey occurred upon my discovery of the richness of theological wisdom of St. Josemaria Escriva. Founding Opus Dei, the Spanish priest reminded the world that everyone is called to holiness and that ordinary life can sanctify us. An anonymous donor at my parish gifted various families during Christmastime. Serendipitously, my family was chosen to receive gifts. We only needed to complete a form with suggestions for items based on our needs and wants. Under the section marked “wants” I requested the book The Way by Fr. Escriva.

Along with being a treat to read, the saint’s wisdom is quite practical to living amidst the busyness of daily living. According to paragraph number 359 he wrote, “Add a supernatural motive to your ordinary professional work, and you will have sanctified it.”  Working for the sake of breadwinning is an admirable goal. However, only when I begin my workday with the specific mentality that the joys, trials, and anything in between that I encounter in my labors will lead me to becoming the best version of myself do I truly thrive—not merely survive at work!

The Second Vatican Council’s spoke of the value of human work as well. According to the Council Fathers,

Human activity, to be sure, takes its significance from its relationship to man. Just as it proceeds from man, so it is ordered toward man. For when a man works he not only alters things and society, he develops himself as well. He learns much, he cultivates his resources, and he goes outside of himself and beyond himself. Rightly understood this kind of growth is of greater value than any external riches which can be garnered. A man is more precious for what he is than for what he has (Gaudium Et Spes, 35).

The essential message is that personal development occurs through our daily work, it matters not what we are doing as long as we continue to strive for excellence in virtue and develop our love for God and fellow mankind.

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  1. Marriage Matters: K. Chesterton reparteed regarding the subject of marriage by saying, “Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honor should decline.” From my experience, the English essayist’s words ring true for my marriage.

This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 1641, “This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they “help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children.”

Being a parent myself, I learned it is essential to err on the side of mercy when raising children. Repeating commands to my children is a frequent task. Recognizing that my son and daughter do not always intentionally refuse to listen is key to bettering me as a parent. Children learn new things daily, hourly, and sometimes each and every minute. Kid’s excitement of experiencing newness oftentimes gets perceived—at least I fall into this erroneous line of thought— as them acting out or being too rambunctious. Parents need to be slow to anger and rich in mercy like the Divine Father.

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  1. Just Don’t Judge, You are not the Just Judge: Jesus’ most famous teaching with regards to judging others comes from Matthew 7:1-5. Our Lord informed the crowds during his Sermon on the Mount with the following,

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

This ever relevant message seems always be applicable no matter the age or nation a person is from. Yesterday, I saw a thread on a Catholic-related Facebook group that I am a member where Christ’s words would have been wise to ponder. The original post discussed a recent quote about Pope Francis and his conversation with a man with same-sex attraction. People seemed quick to judge the bishop of Rome’s statements as being out of line with Catholic Church teaching.  Judging from the peanut gallery does not solve the issues the Church faces on a daily basis. statler-waldor-peanut-gallery

Christians need to err on the side of mercy for it is the centerpiece of Jesus’ teaching. While the entirely of Catholic Church tradition emphasized God’s Mercy, the focus of Divine Mercy deepened with the saints of the 20th century. Perhaps the best encapsulation of Divine Mercy is St. Maria Faustina’s mystical experiences with Jesus Christ.  “‘I am love and Mercy Itself.  There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted – it increases.  The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I Myself take care of it.’” (Diary of a Soul 1273, page 459). Let us reflect God’s mercy in our daily life and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us away from an unhealthy judgmental mindset!

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