Monday, April 11, 2016

"The Joy of Love."

Pope Francis has just given us a guide to conscience titled “The Joy of Love.” 

Are we open to the joy of love? Do we love Jesus enough to change our life? 

The Gospel according to John highlights a post-resurrection experience. 

Caravaggio's Crucifixion of Peter
At the Galilee shore, Jesus tells the disciples, who had been fishing all night and caught nothing, to cast their nets again. Lo and behold, they make a huge catch. Peter -- who recently denied Jesus three times! -- is now ready to follow Jesus. Jesus asks Peter: Do you love me enough to change your life? To trust me completely? To commit yourself totally? And three times Peter answers: Yes, Lord.  Jesus says: Then show me by your actions.   

Who was Peter? Peter, or Simon, had a fishing business. He left the business to become a disciple of Jesus, formed an inner circle, proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, denied him, witnessed His resurrection, became the leader or rock among the disciples, worked signs and wonders, evangelized throughout the eastern Mediterranean and eventually was martyred in Rome. Two New Testament letters are attributed to Peter. 

Peter appears spontaneous but always ready to admit a mistake, to make amends. In the end, Peter is someone you could trust, a man of character.  The true measure of character is what you do when nobody's watching.

Within all of us there is a tension to choose our better or our worse selves.  Catholic Christianity calls this "the fall from grace."  Something is not quite right with us.

Conscience--an informed conscience--is our "moral compass, so to speak. But what is conscience? It is closely associated with our feelings -- we sometimes feel guilty about things we do or don't do-- yet conscience is more. Conscience is a power of judgment: an almost instinctive judgment about the goodness or badness of our behavior and attitudes. Our conscience is a friendly guide in our quest for fulfillment as authentic human beings.

Leo Tolstoy, the Russian philosopher, noted there is only one important question in life: “What shall we do and how shall we live?” 

Peter the disciple would answer: by being men and women of moral character.

Now there’s a difference between personality and character.

Our personality on the surface puts us in an emotional category: cheerful, moody, etc. Character, by contrast, is singular and defines who we are, at the core of our inmost self. Character is ethical.

Character manifests itself in the choices each of us must make. Men and women of character try to be true to their inner best selves. A person of moral character will choose the dignity of the person over business or material advantage,  respect for human beings over the lust for pleasure or success. A person of character is willing to go the extra mile to make something “just right.” A person of character will take a stand on principle and informed conscience.

And so, the Word of God invites us, among other things, to become men and women of character. Like Peter who, although he had failed at times, picked himself up to do the right thing.

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