In the arena

I read a Pew Research Center poll recently that said that among American Catholics, something like 60% admit to not attending Mass on a weekly basis. This is a pretty sad fact, considering the poll also said that Americans tend to lie and say they go more often than they really do. I’d like to make this post a challenge: a challenge to myself and to my fellow Catholics to be more “on fire” for the faith than ever before. To pray harder, to go to Mass and confession more often, to put the Cross at the center of our everyday lives in a more profound way.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:  “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.” (2181)

To be Catholic means to have the fullness of the Truth and to be metaphysically changed forever at the moment of one’s baptism into the Church. Catholics in baptism are given the greatest gift that has ever been given to mankind, the gift of sanctifying grace. Their conscience will never rest until it rests in this grace. So, it is a tragedy when they don’t take their faith seriously, because they are held to a higher standard by virtue of this baptism. The responsibility then falls on devout Catholics to wake these indifferent Catholics out of their spiritual slumber, and to show them the life of grace that they are missing out on.

We are called to be zealous missionaries, as Pope Francis has reminded us countless times. The richness of our faith is not meant to be closeted or put under lock and key. Our lives should be testimonies to the beacon of hope who is Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

One Bible passage that should literally scare the hell out of us  is when Jesus says in Revelation 3:15-22: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

We cannot rest on our laurels. Jesus has no tolerance for lukewarm or “fallen away” Catholics, because if they were catechized properly then they should know better. They should know that, in the end, what is at stake is the salvation of eternal souls. If that doesn’t light a fire in them, and spur them to go out and conquer evil in His name, then nothing will.

I’ll end this post with a famous passage from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt. There is no more worthy cause than being a witness to Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and for some lukewarm souls, recognizing this fact could mean the difference between eternal damnation and eternal blessedness.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.


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