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Created and Redeemed in Love

by Joan McKamey

My college laundry sold white sheets to students for a dollar or two. We used these sheets for everything— toga parties, signs at sporting events, party announcements, declarations of love, even retreat banners. One student retreat I was involved with used a sheet to share the theme and welcomed messages from participants and team members.

My retreat message one year expressed what my life and the retreat experiences had taught me: “God is the answer. God = Love. Love is the answer.” It all begins and ends with God, who is love.

God’s ‘loved creation’

I didn’t have many material goods growing up, and my parents didn’t love me perfectly. But I learned that I am God’s loved creation. And I believe that about every other human being. I was taught to look for Jesus in all people. Someone said that when I meet another with that in mind, the Christ in my heart greets the Christ alive in the other’s heart. I like that!

God created this world and made us its stewards. My family enjoys this world’s beauty. We take our stewardship seriously—conserving, recycling and being aware of ecological issues. I’m thrilled to learn of companies, communities, families and individuals that begin recycling efforts.

God created us in God’s own image—men and women, equal in dignity. While the official language of the Church refers to all three persons of God in the masculine, the Church acknowledges the feminine characteristics of God found throughout the Old and New Testaments. I know that I, as a woman, was created in God’s image, so I try to focus more on the One to whom I pray and less on the words the Church asks me to use when we pray together.

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Jesus saves

Along with great dignity, we are given free will. This is where I trip up sometimes, more often than I like to admit. We all do. I use my free will to choose my way instead of God’s—that’s sin. We’ve all inherited that tendency (called Original Sin). That’s why there’s suffering and death in the world. Jesus frees and redeems us from Original Sin.

Did that stop you for a minute? Jesus frees and redeems us. Not you or me. That’s where I mess up. I work so hard at tackling a problem and forget to ask God to be part of my effort. Many of us have self-help mentalities. I need to remember that God wants me to succeed with any good effort as much, if not more, than I do. And, if it’s sin I’m working against, that’s best left to God since sin is a condition from which I need to be saved.

Serving the Kingdom

I like the image of myself as a servant of the Kingdom of God. The discord in my own home, workplace and neighborhood is distressing enough to make me long for the reign of God’s love, justice and mercy. But when I pick up the newspaper or turn on the news and learn of the violence, oppression, wars and terrible situations of so many of my worldwide family, my local problems seem small. But it is in our homes, workplaces and neighborhoods where most of us can make a difference.

I received a framed verse from a third-grader at my first teaching assignment. It reminds me: “Peace is not a season; it is a way of life.” Being a servant of the Kingdom means starting where I live and doing what I can within my circle of influence no matter how small it may seem in comparison to the world’s problems. If we all did our part, there would be peace and justice throughout our world. Without love, there will be no lasting peace. God is the source of all love as well as our strength to “…let it begin with me.”

S-t-r-e-t-c-h

A challenge in being a servant of the Kingdom is that we may have to stretch ourselves to include all the people that God includes in the Kingdom. Jesus came as the savior of all. God’s plan to save the world was global from the start.

A co-worker friend is a good model. I consider her a “citizen of the world.” Her awareness of and love and concern for the plight of others worldwide both inspire and challenge me to learn and do more on behalf of my brothers and sisters around the globe. A sign on her office door reads: “God bless the whole world. No exceptions.”

‘Look good on wood’

Jesus’ love for us is so great that he accepted pain and death to save us from sin. He expects his followers to accept and bear their own crosses (see Lk 9:23). A presenter at a recent workshop said that all Christians need to “look good on wood.”

In accepting Christ as our savior, we also accept the cross of being Christian. Being a Catholic Christian today is countercultural. If our faith isn’t leading us to choices that are different from the mainstream, then we need to look more seriously at what our faith tells us before we make those choices.

Adults experience and succumb to peer pressure too; it’s not just a teen issue. I can’t count the times I have remained quiet instead of speaking up when speaking up is what I should have done. Fear can paralyze us and prevent us from doing what is right. Fear is not of God. Courage (also called Fortitude) is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

We already know where the cross leads: Resurrection! We have been assured that when we accept the crosses of our personal lives as well as the cross of being Christian, there is life on the other side. We will experience pain, suffering and even death, but God has promised us eternal life.

Death and eternity

A friend of mine works in customer service for a funeral pre-planning insurance company. She fields questions that not only reveal different beliefs about death and the afterlife, but also lead us to conversations about our Catholic beliefs. One policyholder wanted to know if her beneficiaries would receive her policy’s full value should she be taken up in the “rapture.”

While our Catholic beliefs about death and the particulars about how we will enter eternity differ from this woman’s, we do believe that our bodies will be raised when Christ comes again in glory. “Faith in the resurrection of our bodies is inseparable from our faith in the Resurrection of Christ’s body from the dead” (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, p. 155).

Choose to live

I tend to think more about the particular judgment that will occur upon my death than on the general judgment when Christ comes again—figuring if I’m ready for one, I’m ready for the other. Trying to live my life in a way that’s pleasing to God is my goal. Keeping the right perspective is my challenge. The country hit “Live Like You Were Dying,” about a man who received a terminal diagnosis, has been a recent eye-opener. The man took full advantage of his remaining days and offers the wish that the singer (and we) will do the same—whether we have years or days to live.

While death is sad for those who must live on without a loved one, it is not something we need fear. The same God who created us in love and who redeemed us through the death and resurrection of Jesus desires to share eternity with us. All we have to do is respond to that love and live our lives accordingly. What an awesome invitation!

The theme of this article is drawn from Ch. 6, 7, 8 and 13 (pp. 65-100, 151-162) of the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.

Joan McKamey worked professionally as a catechist and DRE before joining the staff at St. Anthony Messenger Press. She holds a master’s in Religious Studies/Pastoral Family Studies from the College of Mount St. Joseph, Cincinnati.

Next: The Church—People of God, Body of Christ

    

Questions

• Responding to God’s gift of faith involves proclaiming God’s goodness
and reaching out to others. Where do you witness this kind of “living
faith” in your own community? How do you put your faith into action?

• God loves all people. Every person is worthy of God’s redeeming gift of
new life in Christ. Are there people in your world (local or global) whom
you judge unworthy of God’s love and gift of salvation? Why?

• “Unity of faith and obedience of faith are not limitations but signposts
leading us to dynamic freedom in faith.” What does this mean to you?

 

 

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