We are so forgetful, aren't we? It's easy to forget who we are and what our mission is.
As other teachers know, there are days when students just get under your skin. I was having just such a day with my Form II students. The first class of the day had been rude, rowdy, rambunctious, any of a number of r-words. And they were the “good” class of the two! I walked into the next class with a grey cloud over my head. The first student who crosses me, I thought, is going to get it. It didn't take long, and I stormed over to his seat, and put him in my crosshairs. Nose to nose, I suddenly thought, what am I doing? I am a missionary! I am here in Cameroon ostensibly because of my love of Christ and my desire to spread the Gospel by word and witness! What a horrible witness to the Love of the Father I am now giving, flying off the handle with no patience at all. I am sure my students were surprised when the next words out of my mouth were not harsh, were not punishment, but were rather, “Jesus loves you.” I added a small note about the need to behave, blah blah blah, but the moment had passed, the situation defused, and I was back to remembering who I was and what my mission is.
As Christians, our mission is the same as the Church's, given by Christ at the end of the Gospel of Matthew:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
As individuals, our personal sins damage our ability to carry out our mission, and in turn cripple the mission of the Church. We take ourselves further and further out of the game with every lie and lust, and the evil one sits back and enjoys the show. We forget our baptism, and we succumb to temptation. It's amazing how a little temptation can, with our necessary assent, transform into a debilitating sin.
God, in his wisdom and providence, is able to use all of us clowns to bring about something good. All it takes is for us to remember just what it is we are through our baptism and the dignity that entails: Members of one body, whose head is Christ.
I've never really had much luck with shrugging off temptation. It is always there, always beckoning. I want it, I am attracted to its glamour. Even in the mission field, sin and temptation are present and promising. It looks like fun! And really, it IS kind of fun, at least in the moment. I see people sinning and I want to sin, too. I covet sin!
We can't just quit sinning, not without God's grace and not without some reason to convince our fallen intellect to override our appetite. We covet sin, and how do we covet? We begin by coveting what we see every day. The solution is not to try to quit sin cold turkey, to will ourselves to cease sinning and resist temptation. Rather, the solution is to begin to desire, or “covet,” so to speak, something else. When we see something else, something that is better than sin for both the person and society, we will begin to want that something else. When I read the lives of the saints, I am inspired to be like them. When I read Scripture, I am floored by the beauty and wisdom and truth within. When I am with holy and virtuous friends, I want to be holy and virtuous, too. When I see the innocent generosity of children, I want to be generous, too. There is an inner light, a joy that the living saints have, and I want it!
Obviously we can't retreat entirely from the world and all that is messed up inside of it. But we can add some peace to the chaos, some contemplative silence to the noise, and try to fill our lives with truth, beauty, and virtue.
We covet what we see. To fulfill our baptismal promises and turn away from sin, let's look to Christ and the saints, especially Mary, and “covet” their holy living!