|Jesus in the Garden - Frankenstein, Missouri cemetery|
We all know, secretly, that we will be judged at death by how well we have responded to God's grace, how well have we been true to Him, how well we have followed His light, according to our own lights. In short, we each privately know how well we have borne His cross, or the many crosses He has given us.
If I were to prepare to die in five minutes, I would assess my life and then honestly ask God to forgive me where I've fallen short. And the odd thing is, I would care, in these last moments, less about my worldly successes or failures, than about how true I've been, how loyal I've been to the Truth - especially in small and unguarded moments, especially where love was the primary thing demanded of me. That is what counts.
Have I been true to God, even at personal cost to myself? Even if it made others mad? Even if I lost friends over it? Even if I lost money over it? And in the depths of my marriage - in those intimate family moments that no one else sees but your wife and kids - have I been true to my wife and children? Have I been a witness to love? That question goes beyond whether or not I've committed adultery. It goes to the heart of the matter: have I been the primary force in their lives for bringing them to Christ? Have I set boundaries and made "tough love" decisions, even if it cost me a few temper tantrums or a few nights on the couch?
And have I been true to that nasty little nagging thing in the center of my soul that I don't like to listen to? Call it the conscience or the still small voice, or the Holy Spirit who goads us, we all know what it is; though we often can't hear it except in moments of great crisis or great silence. Sometimes the more noise we make about "following our conscience", the more we are shirking it. For example, there would be no push for "gay marriage" if sodomy and Lesbianism really brought peace to the inner voice of those who indulge in such acts. And if this blog has taught me anything, it's taught me that people make outlandish arguments and defend irrational statements for one reason only - to soothe a nagging conscience.
In short, how have I loved? How have we loved? For love is so much more than being nice. It is a patient faith and trust in God that He will work through your own unworthy instrument (your self) to bring other people along the Way - which is always the Way of the Cross. Love is letting Him use you to bear your cross and to help others bear theirs.
And this is the question each of us can answer, but we shrink from even asking - have we borne the cross He has given us, or have we shirked it? Most of us spend most of our time and effort and energy in an elaborate and exhausting attempt to dump His cross and to find some lighter baggage of our own to carry.
You know, dear reader, what your cross is. I don't. I can guess, and sometimes our friends know better than we do. Are you 300-pounds and defensive about your weight? Are you doing everything you can to force a romantic relationship into the pre-set mold you've shaped for it? Are you living with a spouse who demands you enable his or her addiction through a kind of co-dependence? Are you sexually promiscuous (even shy of penetration) and telling yourself it's no big deal and it's making you happy? Are you Catholic but unwilling simply to accept the Church and her teachings? Are you tying yourself in knots and spending all of your spare time and energy covering for a problem or a sin that you should simply confront and solve, with the help of God's grace?
All of these things become problems that can only be solved in one way - trusting God to lead us. Allowing Him to come in at every moment, so that the little moments, day by day and step by step, bring us closer to His will, which is His Kingdom.