It is not easy to be Catholic in 2017. Especially in our current political climate when standing up for your beliefs targets you as a bigot or closeminded. I would argue there’s a difference between closemindedness and ‘Kingdom-mindedness’. However, that line is easily blurred when family members leave the Church and turn their backs on God and His teachings. Do we stay the course of sainthood while accepting everyone and everything? Or do we charge ahead with blinders on, ignoring the person and the sin? Some will say, “Jesus ate with all sorts of sinners.” But how we associate with people changes as we grow in faith, get married, or have children because our responsibilities to the Lord increase.
In Matthew 5, Jesus reminds us that He did not come to earth to do away with God’s law and stresses the importance of attention to detail in the Word in all areas of our lives (17&18). He goes on to say, “Whoever disobeys even the least important of the commandments and teachers others to do the same, will be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys the Law and teachers others to do the same, will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven” (19). If our goal as Christians is to continually grow in holiness, then it would be wise for us to bring others on the path with us! I take Jesus’ words of “even the least important” to be the things that we tend to ignore in others—cursing, gossip, and white lies to name only a few.
It is more difficult to ignore or confront the bigger things: promiscuity, alternative lifestyles, addiction, adultery, etc. This leaves the practicing Catholic in an unsavory spot regarding his or her own family. It is, in fact, a spot that my husband and I are in on an almost weekly basis. Physical distance makes it more bearable for us, but as our family and faith grow, we find ourselves having the hard conversations of moving forward in modeling Christ and His love while standing firm in our convictions to our families. I was doing a personal study on 2nd and 3rd John with a friend when we came across these verses:
Anyone who does not stay with the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God. Whoever does stay with the teaching has both the Father and the Son. So then, if some come to you who do not bring this teaching, do not welcome them in your homes; do not even say, “Peace be with you.” For anyone who wishes them peace becomes their partner in the evil things they do.” 2 John 9-11
“They have spoken to the church here about your love. Please help them to continue their trip in a way that will please God. For they set out on their trip in the service of Christ without accepting any help from unbelievers. We Christians, then, must help these people, so that we may share in their work for the truth.” 3 John 6-8
I felt conflicted for many days about how to marry these verses in my heart, and then somehow apply them to my own path to holiness. One seems to say ‘stay away’ while the other begs for our mercy and good graces. After prayer and conversation with some wise folks, I have put together a short list modeling sainthood in your families.
- Unconditional love does not mean unconditional acceptance—you can get along with and love someone while gently stating that you do not agree with his or her current choices
- Place only God-fearing peoples in family leadership roles both in and out of the home—if this means certain family members are not left alone with your children, so be it. If you or your spouse needs to correct someone’s language or vulgar attitude, do not be afraid to do so in love.
- Always invite, but never push. Do not feel compelled to skip mass or prayer because certain people are visiting or you are with others “on their turf”. In the same way, always invite others to join in your worship but steer clear of the guilt-trip.
- Lead by example! This one is probably the most difficult because it forces us to examine our own life and choices. We can never lead unbelievers to Christ with a potty mouth, pious attitude, or clearly hypocritical living styles.
- Leave yourself reminders throughout your home! For us, this meant adding another crucifix and Holy Water font to our home and hanging Rosary’s where they are easily accessaible. To the unbeliever, it may seem like overkill, but these tokens for us (the people actually living in the home), have served as awesome reminders of our sole purpose here on earth, and who wants to gossip while Our Lady of Guadalupe is looking over at ya? (seriously, tell me who)
Of course, we are no where near perfection at any of these, and adding kids into the mix just jumbles things up a bit more but with perseverance and faith, we hope that we can serve as a little bit of Jesus “off the cross”.