Over the past several weeks I’ve been coming across a particular quote from the book of Isaiah that I wonder if people actually understand. It’s from chapter 55, verse 6:
“Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near”
I’ve been thinking about that verse from Isaiah a lot over the past few weeks, because it’s been popping up pretty regularly; either directly quoted, or someone alludes to it. And I wonder if people understand who it is they’re looking for, and why. I wonder if they even know how.
This comes to mind, because in the past couple of years I’ve been noticing some unexpected people in the pews at mass. They’re in their 20s and early 30s, they’re very modern and trendy, generally very left-leaning in their politics and in their ethics. In Brooklyn we call them hipsters and yuppies. You’d expect to find them spending Sundays in recovery from their partying the night before…and the night before that. You wouldn’t expect to find them in Church. Yet they’re trickling in. They’re seeking the Lord while he may be found. But for what purpose?
What exactly are they seeking, and why? Are they seeking a sense of community and inclusion? Are they seeking the Lord in order to find meaning and purpose in life? Are they seeking the Lord for his gentleness and love? Usually those are exactly the reasons. None of those are bad reasons for including the Lord in one’s life; in fact they’re very good reasons to start off with. But are they enough?
This is true for the active, practicing, experienced Catholic, too. Sometimes our failure-of-faith is that we seek the Lord while he may be found, and we look for him in the orthodox practice of Catholicism. But is that enough? Is it enough to be Catholics who are ever more right, if we aren’t growing ever more good?
To those who are seeking the Lord for meaning and purpose and love in their lives, I direct you to the very next verse in Isaiah 55,
“Let the wicked forsake their way, and sinners their thoughts.”
It’s not enough to seek the Lord in order to make him a life companion. Jesus wants to be in your life, but as your King, Savior, and master of your life. Jesus wants to be in your life, but as your King, Savior, and master of your life. Not merely as your companion. To truly seek the Lord, we must change our lives; forsake our worldly ways, turn away from sin, be faithful to the whole Gospel, purify our actions, and our minds. Accepting the Lord’s “niceness” is not enough. Being nicer to others is not enough. What God wants is so much more than that. He wants us to change our lives and become more like Jesus. And Jesus was not loved because he was nice. He was loved because he was good. He was not despised because he was nice. He was despised because he was Good. He was not crucified because he was nice, he was crucified because he was good. Goodness, holiness, those are the true forces and powers that challenge, and change the world, starting with ourselves.
To my brothers and sisters who are more experienced in the faith, and believers in God, and in the Majesty preeminence of the Christ’s Church, I offer another passage in scripture, from Colossians 3:1
“If you have been raised with Christ, then seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.”
It’s not enough to be a right Catholic, or even a good Catholic. We must be Catholics who are good. We must grow in holiness and be ever-more-perfectly an embodiment of goodness and holiness, a source of charity and mercy, the voice of truth and the example of justice in the world, not just the talkers of Justice.
How do we seek the Lord? Scripture and the Church teach us that seeking the Lord doesn’t involve our physical eyes, but our spiritual eyes; our minds, and our hearts. That’s what St. Paul was talking about in Colossians, and something we see repeatedly in some form or other throughout scripture. It’s not about finding him strictly in physical things, such as a bible, or in a Church, but also requires that we direct our minds and hearts to God and His will.
By elevating our spiritual senses to Heaven, we observe the character of God. And much like a child will reflect the tone and mannerisms and behavior of their parents, by observing them over time, we begin to mirror the character of God, the longer we observe him; the longer we turn our hearts and minds to Him.
Is it enough that we are merely “good Catholics”? Is it enough that we seek the Lord only for companionship? The key to that answer is very simple. Can you compare yourself to one of the saints? No? Then change.