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Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap

Regis University, September 30, 2004

A married friend of mine says that his palms start to sweat whenever his wife says, "Sweetheart, do you love me?" The reason is simple. It usually means that very soon he'll be proving it with another new project around the house.

Relationships have consequences. In a loving marriage or a good friendship, the rewards are always much greater than the work. But it's true that if we love somebody, then we appropriately submit ourselves to their needs. We put them first. We conform our actions to their good expectations. Their life becomes our life.

Certain behaviors follow. We don't cheat on persons we love. We don't ignore what they say. We don't lie and promise that we'll do something -- but then do something else. We don't criticize them to outsiders. We don't undermine them with other family members or friends.

Now, just as it is in marriages and friendships, so it is for disciples with Christ and His Church. When Jesus asked, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" (Jn 21:17), He had a reason. As soon as Peter answered yes, Jesus said, "Then feed my sheep." Relationships have consequences. If we really love Jesus Christ, then we'll also love His Church. If we really love Jesus Christ, then our actions will prove it. What we really love and believe, we act on. And what we don't act on, we don't really love and believe.

As American Catholics, we too often confuse our faith with theology, or ethics, or pious practice, or compassionate feelings. All of these things are important, but none of them can substitute for the command we received in the First Letter of Peter: "[A]s he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct" (1:15).

Holiness means being in the world but not of it. It means being different from and other than the ways of our time and place and political parties, and conformed to the ways of God:

" For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Is 55:8,9).

Living our faith sets Catholics apart. Discipleship has a cost. To the degree Catholics have longed to join the American mainstream -- to the point of becoming like everyone else, accommodating to the world and being assimilated rather than witnessing and converting -- we've abandoned who we really are. We've forgotten our purpose as a holy people. And we'll only recover our identity when we change; when we center our lives in God. We need to become holy ourselves -- in our private choices, in our shared life in the Church and also in our public actions.



Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved