The Challenge of Love.
By: Bradley Opitz
As a Catholic I am always confronted with how I am to conduct my actions, thoughts and words. I claim to be Catholic, to follow Christ to the best of my ability in all occasions. A lot of times I fall short of my goal, but I get up and learn from my sins and mistakes so that I might amend my life to the will of God. As I get older and dive deeper into the faith I am often challenged with the fact that I am living into something that is bigger than anything man can create. Through my attempt of living out the unwavering message of love and respect for the dignity of life that each person possesses, I am constantly being challenged and changed into a person who belongs to a Kingdom that has more to offer than this world can give.
It was a week ago when we found out that our country had just killed one of the most prominent faces of hate and terror the world has seen in modern history. When I found out the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death I was standing in the breeze way of St. Theresa Parish Gym. The last teen from our weekend retreat had just boarded his parent’s minivan and the missionaries of the youth group were cleaning up the youth group room, gathering anything that might have been left behind. I was talking on the phone with my father. It was his birthday and this was the first chance I got to call him to wish him a happy birthday. “Son, did you hear the news? Osama Bin Laden has been killed. This is the best birth day present our government could have given me!” I replied, “Wow, that’s great. We got the guy!” Looking back on my reaction to hearing Bin Laden’s death I know that the emotions that I expressed did not match up completely with how I truly felt.
When I was in college, a priest friend of mine asked me a question that has changed and guided my view of the world and how I play a role in it. He said, “Bradley, how does the world view you?” I like many people in our country replied, “Well, I’m an American.” I thought this was an obvious answer, but he proceeded to ask me again. “Where is your place in the world, how are you viewed?” I was a little puzzled at him asking the question the second time but I stuck to my original answer. What he told me following my answer caught me off guard. “You are a Catholic, and your identity comes from God. Before all things your citizenship to this country comes second to the fact that you are a Catholic first.” I sat silent for a few seconds letting the words sink into my mind. I do not think that my priest friend knew that the weight of his words would rest on my conscience from that point on.
September 11, 2001 played a significant role in shaping what America is today. I share in the anger and fear that this country has been through in the past ten years. I remember watching the second plane hit the twin towers on television at school as the principle of my high school announced over the speakers, “our country is under attack”. Time seemed to have stopped with our classes as we watched the towers collapse and heard news of two other planes crashing around the east coast. It was a terrifying day. So it was natural, upon hearing the news of Bin Laden’s death, there was a brief feeling of wanting to be happy that he suffered as he had made so many people suffer around the world. It was not long after I got off the phone with my dad that true Christian perspective sank in.
What I am about to say might make you upset, uncomfortable or even question my intensions as an American. But, it is at the very core of what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Christ. I do not rejoice over Osama Bin Laden’s death. To do so would be a rejection of the radical and unwavering message of love that the Gospel proclaims. In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus proclaims in his Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust…’” Almost two thousand years later this Gospel message still reaches out to us and calls us to live as children of our heavenly Father. In our fallen nature it is natural for us to hate our enemy, for us to wish destruction on their lives. But, the message of true authentic Christian living, transforms our hearts of stone and replaces them with natural hearts, hearts that truly love (Ezekiel 36: 26).
The date of Osama Bin Laden’s death is an important date to remember. It’s a day that calls all Christians everywhere, especially Americans, to be mindful of God’s mercy, unfailing love and forgiveness for all people. That Sunday might better be known as “Divine Mercy Sunday” and the day of Pope John Paul II’s beatification. Divine Mercy Sunday calls all people to reflect and live into the mercy that God had bought for us through His Son Jesus on the Cross. Pope John Paul II beatification serves as a calling to live a life centered on Christ, proclaiming true love and forgiveness for all people without conditions. The world cannot afford to miss out on the true significance that Sunday.
God’s goal for us is His will and love over us. At times we may be conflicted between how the world moves us to act and how we were created to act. It is easy to get distracted by the wrong doings of others that affect the world in an adverse way. Feelings of hatred, jealously and revenge are points that go against every action of how God calls us to truly love (1 Corinthians 13). We have more than enough justification to conform our hearts to the will of God so that we might live in peace. Continue to seek Christ’s presence in your life and struggle patiently through your heart’s conversion to the love of God.
May God be on our lips and in our hearts!
“In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred”
– Official statement from the Vatican on Osama’s death