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Voices Online Edition
Vol. XXV, No. 4
We Must Seek Christ,
Who First Sought Us
by Lisa Nguyen
Lisa is the fourteen-year-old daughter of Yen and Tony Nguyen. She is the younger sister of Mary. They live in Owatonna, Minnesota. She is currently a freshman at Owatonna High School. During her free time, she loves to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, read books on lives of the saints (and books written by saints), play piano, flute, and organ, watch EWTN, and assist her local churches (St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and Sacred Heart Church) in any way she can. She felt inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the following essay.
“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold into slavery to sin. What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” (Rom 7:14-15)
We often look for freedom; longing for the sense of being free. We wish to do what we want and when we want, without restriction. However, this is not true freedom. Even though we may be free through the eyes of the world, we are bound by something else: something more dangerous than being stripped of our right to choose what we want to do. That is sin. We can live in a place where no one is forced to do what they do not want to do, but if we are bound by sin we really have no freedom at all. The trick is we do not know we are enslaved to sin. We are deceived by its outward beauty and enticements. We do not realize it, until it may be too late. Freedom, to the world, is to be able to choose for ourselves. Yet, to be truly free is to be able to choose the good; to choose to do what is right. With every sin, our will is weakened. The sense (or voice) of what is right is clouded. Yes, God’s natural law is forever written in our hearts, but if we do not pay any heed to it the voice is lost amid the distractions of the world.
There is a war going on in our lives. Whether you want to be or not, you are already part of the battle between good and evil. There is no safe card or neutral side. Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30). You either are for God or against Him. There is no in between.
You make the choice through all the choices you make every day. You choose to stand up for what is right and defend truth or you remain indifferent with no view on anything at all. You fear that you are going to hurt somebody. You are going to hurt somebody and that somebody is God, as Mother Angelica once said. With every choice you either become more liberated or you tighten the grip of sin on your soul.
Often times, as we look at our lives, we do not understand what we do and why. Yet, at other times it’s very clear. We are human, and we are not perfect. We make deliberate choices that we regret or feel satisfied with our whole lives. The choice that will satisfy us is to “… love the Lord with all our heart, with all our being, with all our strength, and with all our mind, and our neighbor as ourselves.” (Luke 10:27)
God loves us so much as to let us choose to love Him. He gave us free will. He wills that our love for Him is freely given. We have the right to choose. Nevertheless, our choice is muddled. After the fall, when sin entered into the world, mankind suffered. Our friendship with God was broken. But in Christ, our friendship with God is restored. We, though, still suffer from darkened intellects, weakened wills, distorted passions, and corrupted bodies. God knows this. He knows alone we can do nothing, and only with Him will we make the right choice.
The Way of the Cross
In meditating about the way of the cross, I think of Jesus falling under the heavy and rough cross. Probably getting splinters on His back and on the edge of death, Jesus still rises again and again to make it to the place of His execution. All He thought of, as He forced His wounded feet to walk along, was you and me.
He pulled Himself to Golgatha for our salvation, our chance to be with Him for all eternity. All the mockery and humiliation Jesus went through was for us. He loved us so, and yet we still hesitate to choose Him. When sin entered the world, mankind was affected. “For our sake He made Him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Corinthians 5:21). Still, we have the free will to choose good or evil. He has already chosen us. (John 15:16) He loves us. We need to respond to His everlasting love.
Yet, even though we know that His love for us is infinite, we still hesitate to choose Him. The lure of the world and its enticements can often pull us away from the one who loves us the most, Jesus. The world leads us down seemingly sweet and beautiful paths slowly but surely. We need to realize that this life is just a journey, and it does not last forever. In the short span of our lives, we decide where we will spend eternity. So why do we go through life so carelessly? We worry about things that do not matter. We must know we were created for something more. We were “created by God and for God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church §27).
That is why nothing in this world will satisfy the hunger in our souls. We can try to fill up the hole, but it will remain a bottomless pit. Yes, it is hard to choose what appears to be so far away, while the things of this world attract us so easily. He said it so simply, but He did not say it would be simple to accomplish. This is where the struggle takes place knowing we ought to strive to choose Christ in all our decisions day in and day out. But knowing and doing are two entirely different things. At times it appears to be a losing battle for sure, only if we do it on our own. With Him, all is not lost, even when we feel so weak and we think we cannot get up to keep on fighting the battle. Keep in mind that sometimes it is through the struggles, tests, and trials that Jesus pulls us closer to Himself.
Jesus can bring greater good out of any evil. Maybe you can’t see in the mess of your life right now, but He is always there. Be reaffirmed. Just like the sun, God is there. Even though all you see are clouds, you know the sun is still there, and it will shine brightly on some other day. But like all analogies, they never work out perfectly. While God lasts forever, the sun’s lifetime has a limit. God has no limit. We have to let God undo the knots in our lives in His time and in His way. We must give Him full reign over our lives. Only then will we be happy, because He, alone, knows what is best for us. He created us and knows us better than we know ourselves. Because of this, we do not face the struggles and frustrations alone. We have Jesus by our side, helping us and leading us along the way, in truth, and to life, ultimately, Himself. We are not alone; we have God-given gifts to help us on our journey.
He gave us His Church, His bride, which He built on Peter, the rock. (Matthew 16:18) The Catholic Church, God’s gift, is a visible sign of the invisible grace of God, working in the world. The Church is also a divine institution, because Christ established it. He is the head of the Church. And we, her members, make up the body of Christ. We are called to help each other, through the struggles. We are brothers and sisters, united in Christ. We have to lend that helping hand toward those who reach out to us. We have to try to understand one another. We can open our eyes and look upon each other with compassion and love. We all struggle every now and then; none of us are perfect. We have our own faults and imperfections, but we have strengths too. Together we can help each other to do the Lord’s will. We were not made to do this alone.
At the foot of the cross, Jesus gave Mary to John, and indeed to all of us. In the same way, He gave John to Mary. He wanted them to rely on each other. He wants us to rely on them. He gave them as gifts, instruments to be worked through by the Holy Spirit. God works in many ways. He works through people, books, sufferings, and trials; indeed everything that happens to us is permitted by God. “Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid.” (Luke 12:7)
God’s mercy and love in the sacraments
God cares for us with everlasting mercy and love. All you need to do is to trust in the Lord. When you trust you give everything to Him, knowing that He will take care of it all. You begin to open your eyes and see God’s work alive in this world. In the intricate details of an orchid, you see God’s magnificent beauty. Even in cases of tragedy, one can see God’s hand bringing out greater good from the evil.
He also gave us His sacraments, through which we receive abundant graces. In baptism, we are made children of God. We are washed from original sin, and we are born again. In the Blessed Sacrament, we receive Him, body, blood, soul, and divinity. The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life. In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit is sealed in us, strengthens us, and helps lead us to be better soldiers for Christ.
In the sacrament of confession, we are forgiven of our sins. Christ sets us free and unloads the burden of sin off our shoulders. In anointing of the sick healing takes place for the soul and at times the body too. Matrimony is a sacrament. Holy orders is also a sacrament when deacons, priests, and bishops are ordained to be God’s ministers.
The sacraments are necessary. We are to receive them as often as we can. They give us grace to continue in our struggles and to resist temptations. “Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” (II Corinthians 9:8) He makes His grace abundant for us. He wills to us all the help we need to be with Him, for all eternity. How much longer will we refuse to accept it?
Jesus gave Mary to us, to be our mother. As a mother cares for her children and wants the best for them, Mary cares for us and wishes the best for us, which is to be forever with Jesus in heaven. Mary leads us to Jesus. We can have confidence that when we come to her she will show us the way to Jesus. We can ask her to pray for us and help us to imitate Christ Jesus, her son. As she interceded at the wedding feast of Cana she can intercede for us today. She will help us to win the battle. She is the mother, who understands. She is the one who holds us close and leads us to her son, Jesus. Mary pondered and kept the words of God in her heart, like her we too keep forever in our hearts her son, the Eternal Word.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life…” (John 6:35). Jesus at the Last Supper gave us the precious gift of Himself in the Eucharist. During the Holy Mass through the forms of bread and wine He enters and dwells within us, that we might be tabernacles holding Jesus within us. With Him, we can do any good deed toward others. It may still seem hard, but He is still there with us. In our weakness; He shows His strength. He also gives us this wonderful opportunity to come and see Him, and adore Him in Eucharistic Adoration. It is really Jesus that is there inside the church, though all our earthly eyes see is a thin wafer of wheat, through eyes of faith it is the son of God, the God-man that died for you and for me. Come to Him. He is waiting there to talk to us, to help us work through our difficulties, and to tell us He “loves each one of us as if there is only one of us to love.” (Saint Augustine).
Jesus told His apostles, the Father “will give you another Helper” (John 14:16). When Jesus left this world to ascend to heaven He left us with the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity and He is the Spirit of Truth. We can let Him work in us or we can ignore Him. We need to ask to be given His gifts, such as having the courage to stand up for the greatness of God’s name or having prudence to know what is right and to do it. Jesus intended that we might be able acquire the gifts of the Holy Spirit and spread the gospel “to the ends of the Earth”.
As Mother Teresa said, “the Lord does not ask us to be successful but to be faithful”. We will have to fight our battles and struggle along the way, but we have what we need to win the battle. If the struggles and trials took a thousand steps, God has already taken the nine-hundred-ninety-ninth step. He is waiting for you make the choice and take that one step toward Him. Think of His immense love for you. He came down from heaven and He became God-man and was born into a stable on a cold night. Jesus, the Son of God, walked among us, mere human beings, and cured the sick and ill.
He, the King of Kings, was judged by Pilate and condemned to die. He bore the insults and mockery, endured the excruciating pain from the scourging from the soldiers, tolerated the unbearable pain of the crown of thorns, and carried the heavy cross to the place of His death, thinking of us along the way. He stretched out His arms, hung, in agony, for three hours on a cross for you and for me; out of love for us all. Jesus humbled Himself to die that terrible death for us.
His love is that great. How will you respond to His love for you?
Hubert Ahaus. “Holy Orders”. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. newadvent.org/cathen/11279a.htm.
Mother Angelica and Raymond Arroyo. Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality. New York: Doubleday, 2007.
Augustinus Lehmkuhl. “Sacrament of Marriage”. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. newadvent.org/cathen/09707a.htm.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ web site. Retrieved August 11, 2010. usccb.org.
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