Welcome to Working to
Beat Hell - your source for tools to help you in the quest to beat
A bit about the name:
We live in a world of division. We see the
world as consisting of Us and Them. This occurs on many levels ranging
from politics (Republican - Democrat), to sports, and yes it has even
invaded our faith life (Catholic - Protestant, liberal - conservative).
These divisions often lead us to view the "other" group as our enemy. But
the Council of Trent reminds us, our real enemy
is the devil or Satan. Thus, rather than working to beat the
Republicans or Democrats, the liberals or the conservatives, we should be Working to Beat Hell.
The season of Advent is often referred to as a season of joyful anticipation. It is a season where Catholics are reminded that they are a people in waiting – longing for the second coming of our savior, Jesus Christ. Yet as we wait, we do so with joy.
Just prior to the beginning of Advent, Pope Francis issued the first Apostolic Exhortation of his pontificate entitled Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)
. In this exhortation the pope reminds Christians that they are to be people of joy. This joy, he notes, is rooted in the fact that we are infinitely loved (EG 6).
The profundity of this notion is often lost in our modern world. People often lose sight of the fact that they are loved and desired by God, who happens to be the One whom they desire. Consequently, they seek approval from other sources. Hence they seek wealth, pleasure, power and status among other things in order to prove that they are desirable. Yet to the extent that they seek these things, they allow themselves to be manipulated. They allow others to convince them that the only way they are desirable is if they act a certain way, have certain items, wear certain clothes, etc. And far from being desired for who they are, they become puppets manipulated by others. While they may have many nice things, and enjoy many pleasures, they are often left feeling empty.
The Gospel tells us the good news that we are loved not based on our accomplishments or possessions, but we are loved for who we are at the deepest level of our being. God’s love for us is not manipulative. He does not love us conditionally, but unconditionally. And He invites us to enter into a loving relationship with Him. When we accept this invitation to enter into a loving relationship with God, we become filled with joy. The reason for this is that in God we find the source of our deepest longing, and we are invited to enter into a relationship with the one whom we desire above all else – the infinite God. This relationship fills us so completely that nothing else seems to matter in comparison.
The type of joy that results from a relationship with God is not a joy that places in a permanent state of bliss. Jesus after all forewarned his disciples that following Him would entail taking up their cross (Mt 16:24). Thus, being joyful does not mean being in a constant state of cheer and bliss. Rather, the joy that comes from a relationship with Christ is the joy of being able to be alive to the fullest, free from any other forces that try to manipulate and enslave us. This type of joy has the power to overcome the worst of what the world can throw at us. Hence many martyrs and confessors endured great physical torture, yet remained joyful – not even death could manipulate them, forcing them to deny their very being in order to settle for less dignified versions of themselves. For even in the midst of their sorrows and suffering, they were able to be people of joy, mindful that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;” (LAM 3:22).
This same joy is to be cultivated by Christians during the Advent season. It is not a joy that is derived form earthly pleasures, but a joy that comes from knowing that I am loved by God, who, as it turns out, is the one for whom I am deeply longing. This joy is so profound that even as Christians await the second coming of the Lord, they do so, knowing that He has not abandoned them, but will in fact return as He promised.
Brian Carpenter is a priest of the
Diocese of Rochester, NY. Fr. Brian Carpenter. Rev. Brian Carpenter.