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This is the ideal, for a priest: to be totally conformed to Christ - and for lay-persons too, who want to do the Will of God. Whoever conforms his will to the Will of Christ, and believes and practices the teachings of the Church, for love of Christ, and has a pure heart, avoids all sin, and shares the Faith where he can, and loves his neighbour, is a channel for God's powerful graces to others, even if he or she has weaknesses and imperfections from character defects, or poor upbringing.
Many Catholics believe it is enough to be kind to other people. The greatest love is shown when people are not only offered kindness but also when they are offered the truth which sets us free: the truth about God's love for us, about sin and virtue, repentance and forgiveness, about the Real Presence of Jesus in His Church, helping us to prepare for Heaven.
There is no easy way out of trouble. If a priest is very sinful, or dispirited and hopeless, and wants to escape from his misery, the only sensible way is by turning to Christ, beginning again to trust in Him, to repent, to pray, and to receive His gifts, for the service of God and neighbour, just as the only sensible way for a man in prison to act is to act well, until the door opens to freedom rather that try to dig a tunnel with bare hands through a brick wall.
Christ was not content just to heal a twelve year old girl, and so help her, and give joy to her family. He asked them to give her something to eat - knowing she would be weak after lying in bed, ill. He wants us to follow His example of practical charity, with attentiveness to the real needs of other people.
Christ was willing to end his prayer, when people were in need. As we follow the rocky path to Heaven as disciples of Christ, we have two great Commandments to keep: to love God with all our being, and to love our neighbour for God's sake, with the love of Christ's Spirit within us. That is why we must offer practical love to those in need, not in showy gestures, but in the course of everyday life, and determined to be as kind as Christ.
Our spiritual lives should be balanced, as we follow Christ. There are people who love to be busy with works of practical charity, yet who sit in judgement on people who show devotion to Christ and His Mother, and label them as 'Holy Joes'. The First Commandment is to love God, so a busy person who is kind but does not pray is failing in love; however, every prayerful person should desire, out of love for God, to keep the Second Commandment, and to love his neighbour. It is wrong to neglect prayer, or works of charity.
If any religion suggests that riches or worldly success are a sign of God's approval of certain persons, and that poverty is shameful, and if people develop habits of ignoring or despising the poor, it is plainly not founded by the God of love, Who sent His Son to earth, Who founded a Church which hands on His Gospel of love: His teaching about God's love for all people, rich and poor. Christ has revealed to us the true nature of God.
Christ suggests that when we have to deal with a person who is angry, abusive and unwilling to listen to reason we try to act with pity and charity; but if such a person refuses to be helped, we can picture ourselves as being with Jesus in the boat, as the demoniac once shrieked amongst the nearby tombs. Like Jesus, we should remain calm and patient.
A priest who is dispirited about the state of the Church should resist temptations to leave and to enjoy earthly pleasures. By the altar, he can receive power from God, to help him to renew the Church, and to encourage people towards obedience to God, sound Catechesis, profound reverence in prayer, and respect for the Pope, as well as love for the needy.
Christ asked us to reflect upon which of several priests is the one most like Him. It is the one who teaches the truth about God and man, sin and salvation, Heaven and Hell, though also teaching about love for God and neighbour. A kind attitude in a priest is not enough. Boy Scouts can be kind. A priest must hand on the Truth as Christ did, to make Him known.
We are not all chosen to be official 'Evangelisers'; yet those who experience the peace-of-soul, spiritual growth and intellectual delight of the true Faith, and who are grateful for life in Christ, are not acting kindly if they don't share the Faith at suitable opportunities, or if they even advise other people to keep on with their mistaken beliefs or superstitious practices. It's as if people on their way to a warm climate can choose whether to take pity on a family they see, huddled in a snowfield, or can ignore them whilst rejoicing in their own good fortune.
God delights in our love, proved by our devotion in prayer; but He delights in the charity in our hearts, when we freely choose to leave our devotions to attend to a neighbour, whether a person taken ill, or a husband arriving home and deserving a kind welcome.
If we are full of self-pity, no matter how justified it seems, we become inward-looking, focussed not upon Christ or our neighbour but our own feelings of misery. This is spiritually harmful - as if we are sitting on the edge of the Abyss, in danger of falling, not like those other suffering people who say: "I can't do much good, but I'll do the little I can" - on the way to Heaven.
Christ sees every tiny act of charity that we do for love of Him. He sees each one as being like a personal gift to Him - or like a rose-petal thrown by a child in His honour, where He is Present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, as the Sacred Host in carried along in a monstrance, by a priest, for the faithful to venerate and adore.
When Christ washed the feet of His disciples at the Last Supper, He set us an example; and He is pleased, and grateful, whenever He sees us show out practical, compassionate love in our care of the needy: whether the members of our own families in everyday life, or people in our wider community,
It is Christ who is as work in us, and Christ Who deserves the praise, when He enables us to be charitable towards everyone and in every circumstance, whether praying for the dead and the bereaved, caring for the sick, celebrating other peoples' joy, or offering gentle words to someone who has been hurtful.
There are occasions when we are caused to stop and think. Some people, when forced to think about death, spend only a brief moment wondering about Eternity, and their own future. Wise people decide to prepare. Rather that immerse themselves again in their everyday concerns they do everything possible to make themselves worthy of the gift of Heaven by growing in love for God and neighbour.
Most of us know people it is hard to love. We must not worry if we find it easier to love some people more than others. What is important is that we know our need of God's help, and turn to Him, praying for a charitable heart, then acting with love towards all. He delights in our efforts, which prove that we are following His Way. If we were not doing so, we would ignore all those who irritate us.
Will the 'gates of Paradise' open for you and me? Each of us should ponder the question from time to time, in order to refocus on our priorities. If we are true to Christ, on a journey of love, obedient to the Father's Will and loving our neighbour, we shall continue at death on the very same journey, to the heart of the Blessed Trinity, even if we need some purification before we enter our Home.
It is an act of charity to reach out to other people in their bereavement, or on their birthdays or anniversaries, and to write a few words, as evidence of our concern for them, and our love, whether in their sadnesses or their joys.
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