There is no feeling like the one you get when you're sitting at Mass and the homily is so spot on that you realize you're nodding at certain points, welling up at others, and wishing you could take notes during the whole thing. Our Associate Vicar, Father Spisak, spoke yesterday during his homily about how to order our lives and make our decisions. His premise was simple: as a Christian, you have one overarching goal, and that is to get to Heaven. So every single decision you make throughout your day should be guided by that question.
Some may see this as excessive, but truly it is a reliever of burden, for it clears away confusion and offers clarity. If we REALLY believe what we claim to believe about Heaven and about the person of Jesus and about our Church, then even the simplest and seemingly most trivial choices we face need to be filtered through this question: how does this help me get to Heaven?
I worded it a bit differently from Father Spisak's question and I offer this metric: "How will this help me and/or someone else get to Heaven?" because I think we have to be a bit more demanding of ourselves and a lot more truthful. And making the question more specific certainly helps us do that. Father Spisak used the example of a daily schedule. Look at each activity and appointment you have, as well as how you spend your "free time." We can take it a step further. Look at how you are handling your money, your words, and your relationships.
Relating to others involves decisions that vex us. And it's key to scrutinize this aspect of our lives, because yes, we are our brother's keeper. Not just our spouse's, not just our children's, but everyone with which we come in contact. We need to be, even in our briefest and most casual encounters with people, driving them towards their eternal Beatitude, not away from it. This is not as simple as running around with tracts, or even living as an example, both of which I have advocated in prior blogs. Perhaps there is a toxic relationship you are involved in because you think you can "save" that very difficult someone, that somehow you can, by sheer desire and fervent prayer, by constant haranguing even, bring someone around to your way of thinking. If it hasn't worked by, oh, I'd say, NOW, it's time to stop. Sometimes, and this has happened to me on at least three separate occasions, the best thing to do is to cut ties with someone in whom, despite your best efforts, you seem to bring out the worst, or someone who just doesn't want to give your point of view a shot at the microphone. Ever. You have to examine that relationship through the lens of our question: how is this relationship helping me or this person get to Heaven? If the relationship turns into an occasion for sin, like you end up acting with pride or if the person you are "working on converting" ends up getting angry with you and actually seeing you as a walking reason NOT to become Catholic, then neither of you is getting closer to Heaven. It's time to move on, shake the dust off of your feet, and say a prayer that someone else better suited to help that person is brought on staff by the Holy Spirit.
Your time is better spent else-ways As much as we worship money and the material things it buys, I believe our time has even more value. Time gets sucked up so quickly and easily, particularly for those of us who live in first world societies, have access to many amusements and conveniences, and work long hours. Our disposable time, like our disposable income, must be spent in a way that, again, reflects a positive response to our guiding question. For every conversation I'm having over coffee with a girlfriend, for every half hour of play time with my kids, for every twenty minutes in the car with the radio on, I have to be asking myself, am I acting this scene out in a way that will somehow further the cause of getting me and these other children of God into Heaven?
Does this sound obsessive or excessive to you? It shouldn't. Because what is likely driving your decisions now is something random or primal or not even of your own volition. You may be letting life drive you, and then viewing yourself as a victim. You may be making all your choices based on Hedonism, or materialism, or a crooked version of charity that promotes a "live and let live" attitude. We all have to live in the world, and that means financial and health concerns are extremely important, but even there, the final arbiter must be the journey back to our true home with God our Father. So no, this is not "going overboard" or being a holy roller, or being a Pollyanna. This, frankly, is common sense. If you want something, then you direct everything you do and say and choose TOWARD that thing. Or, you will be moving AWAY from that thing. There is no such thing as a neutral move, try as you may to spin it that way.
So the next time you are facing a major life decision, or the next time you are at a tiny crossroads that you'd usually just skip over without a thought, THINK. Reflect on our guiding question: if I take this job, if I say these words, if I buy this, if I watch this, if I go to this party, if I volunteer here, if I hit SEND, if I take this phone call, if I take this pill, if I lend this fifty dollars, if I hit snooze, if I mind my own business, if I hug her, if I defriend him, if I tell the truth, if I sell my car, if I choose this school, if I share this meme, if I open that door, if I block that person's phone number, if I let him ahead of me in line, if I invite her to lunch, if I open that magazine, if I shut my mouth . . . how is this helping me or someone else get to Heaven? Not just IS IT, but HOW is it? Demand an explanation from yourself. We tend to let ourselves off the hook far too easily. That's why we need the Confessional, and just a bedside "sorry" to God. Because invariably, we tend to twist things to our advantage, to make ourselves look better, righter, or just to help things be EASIER for us, because, yes, life is hard.
Are you facing a choice right now? If you are, I will pray with you that you sincerely consider our guiding question. Picture me holding your hand as we pray together, and give honest answer. If we keep our goal in mind, with humility and fervent desire, we have a better than good chance of pleasing our Savior and also making our lives go way more smoothly, and even if not, we'll know we acted for the right reason, not the wrong one. Regret is a harsh and heavy load, and I don't want you to carry it. Neither does Jesus. So the things that would be obstacles between you and finally being WITH Him? Dump 'em.