Two weeks ago, I introduced our topic for this upcoming year of catechesis for our Family of Faith program (and by extension our entire parish). That theme is the third section of the Catechism titled “Life in Christ.” This section provides a thorough catechesis on how we live as Christians in every aspect of our daily lives – thoughts, words, and actions.
Something that I think needs to be set before us at the beginning of this catechesis is the importance of this teaching for our salvation. In the introductory paragraphs of this section, we read the following:
The way of Christ “leads to life”; a contrary way “leads to destruction.” The Gospel parable of the two ways remains ever present in the catechesis of the Church; it shows the importance of moral decisions for our salvation: “There are two ways, the one of life, the other of death; but between the two, there is a great difference. (CCC 1696)
Maybe you have heard the saying about the Commandments that there is significance to use of the word “commandment.” The Lord provided us the Ten Commandments, not the Ten Suggestions. In other words, what the Lord (and by extension, the Church) teaches us on how to live are not just recommendations for us, as though we can pick and choose what we like. No, the Lord commands these so that by following them, we can have eternal life. By rejecting them, we risk eternal separation from Him.
In our modern day, people tend to bristle at the suggestion of Hell, that by our actions, we can lose going to Heaven. Some claim that holding out the threat of eternal punishment was just a tactic for scaring people and keeping them in line so as to control them. And while I agree that we should not try to beat people into submission to obedience through fear, we would be doing the people of God a grave disservice if we were not faithful to teaching the entirety of the Gospel, which clearly warns that there are consequences for not following the commandments of the Lord, consequences in this life, and in the life to come.
While the fear of negative consequences must always be before us, it is better for us to focus on the positive consequences of our choosing to live this life of Christ, the greatest of which is eternal life. Our topic for next month will be our call to beatitude, which is the beginning of happiness with God in this life, and eternal happiness with Him forever in the fullness of Heaven. It is our desire for Heaven which should be our primary motivation for how we choose to live, not our fear of Hell, though that should always be present to our minds as well.
We have the opportunity each and every day to choose how to live. Living the life of Christ is not about a “no” to a laundry list of prohibitions, it is an overwhelming “yes” to Christ, who loves us and has given us the path to follow that will lead us to freedom and joy already in this life and ultimately to eternal life with Him in Heaven.