When I talk with people who attend church and live good moral lives, I often ask them “why?” Now and then I get the answer, “I don’t want to go to hell.” Sometimes I hear, “I want to go to heaven.” I have a confession to make. Up until I reached the age of about twenty, my faith was based on fear. I had a relationship with God. I did all of the things I was supposed to do like pray, go to mass, follow the Ten Commandments and Sermon on the Mount, and receive the sacraments. I even did a bit of evangelizing as a teen, and was minimally successful.
I was scared. My image of God was that he was a score keeper and that if I didn’t sin too much, I might make it to heaven. If only I could get to purgatory! I was in college at Central Michigan University when I learned that God loves me, personally. I gave my life to God and joined a prayer group. I was baptized in the Spirit. It was amazing. I found myself reading the Bible more. I kept a copy of the Bible next to my bed and read it before going to sleep and immediately after waking up.
I began to pray more. I talked with other christians about the love of God. The sacraments came alive for me. I fell in love with and married a wonderful catholic christian woman and created family. I began to experience God, not as a supreme being that was just waiting for me to sin and fail, but as a personal God who loves me and will never let sin keep us apart.
I continue to go to the sacraments, pray, read the Bible, and live a moral life, but my motivation has changed. I no longer live a christian life out of fear, but in response to the great love I feel from a loving God. I want to be a better person, not out of fear, but love.
That was about fifty years ago. After fifty years, I find myself continuing to live what I hope is a good christian life, based on the love of God for me, my family, my church and the world. I don’t get too upset by events around me because I know that ultimately, God is in charge and he’ll take care of things, as long as I respond to his love in action, and don’t lose my faith and trust in him. I can’t say there haven’t been struggles and doubts, but Jesus has always been with me. He loves me.
“May the Lord bless and keep you. May he let his face shine upon and give you his peace.”