By Innocent Maziya, Diocese of Manzini, Eswatini (In the photo: Mr. Maziya with his family)
Living a Christian life is not easy. We can all attest to that. It comes with challenges. Probably because there always seems to be someone ready to recruit us for the other side. The metaphor presented by Christ of sending us like sheep among wolves and that of St. Peter of a lion roaring looking for someone to devour is very apt. It would therefore be a mistake to believe that being a Christian is an easy journey on this earth.
Worse still is the danger of being a tepid soul. Jesus, in his conversation with St. Faustina, likens tepid souls to corpses. Tepid or lukewarm souls are particularly at risk because they do not realise the danger they are in because they do participate in Church. When we do the bare minimum and do things for the sake of it, without faith, passion, or commitment, we become lukewarm or tepid souls with no fire in them. Becoming a lukewarm soul seems to be both a result and the cause for at least one of the seven deadly sins: sloth.
I have found it to be particularly helpful to throw my energies and my mind at activities of the Church. This helps me to avoid being too much of a sloth and also staying away from the roaring lion. When I first started working, I asked a fellow Christian how one can avoid temptation with so much going on in our present-day society. The answer I got was simple and it has guided me over the years. Be busy in the WORK of the LORD. We have all heard that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. We are all weak and in need of help. We will always be busy with something. We just need to choose to be busy with something that will bring value to our lives.
The Catholic Church presents us with opportunities to participate fully in the Body of Christ through Sodalities and Organisations. Believe me there are sodalities and organisations for EVERY person. The intended benefit of every Church organization is spiritual growth for members. I can attest to this. I have realized the following benefits of participating in Church organisations:
1. More time for God. As we all know, not all of us are able to find time on our own for spiritual reflection, be it reading the Scripture or praying. Being in an organization, especially a Sodality, has helped me to pray and read more. Once I committed to being part of a group it was easier to commit to the spiritual activities of the group.
2. More time for my fellow human beings. Church Organisations have a social obligation where they reach out to those who are suffering in our society. By being part of the group, it enables one to participate in the alleviation of the pain of others. My biggest experience was when I first visited the Matsapha correctional facility. There is no way I would have ever had the courage to do that alone. Yet, through the men’s organization I was able to do that. After that I was even able to lead a team of colleagues from work to deliver some health messages in the same facility. This has afforded me an opportunity to offer help to those who need it, as an example of living out the acts of mercy, just as Christ instructs us to do.
3. More time to reflect on my family life. I have heard the pleasure of participating in the Couples for Christ (CFC) movement. This has helped me to objectively reflect on ways in which I can be a better husband and father in my family. Committing to CFC means committing to actively doing something about improving my family life. The movement, like the Catholic Church, has a rich library of resources for strengthening families. Needless to say, we all need help in this area.
These are just some of the examples of how I have benefitted from participating in Church organisations as a way of improving my spiritual life. The other side of the benefit is that we help the Church to grow. I have always wondered how, as a Church, we are always short of Catechism teachers when we have so many professional teachers in the Church, some of whom teach Religious Education in school. I am still wondering. Not only that but we seem to be always struggling to find people to serve in various responsibilities in the Church, without which the Church would not grow.
I have discovered that it is not enough for my own spiritual growth, first and foremost, but also for the growth of the Church, to attend Mass, make my offering and then disappear until the next Mass celebration. I have discovered a wealth of resources for enriching my spiritual life through participating in Church organisations. I would encourage every Catholic to do so. Be an active worker in the vineyard of the Lord.