Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my favorite theologians. I cannot agree with him on everything, seeing as how I am Catholic and he was Lutheran, but his book, Life Together, is one I continually come back to.
This is not to say that I read it again and again. I mean that his insights are so penetrating, I find myself feeding on them in my daily life even now as I remember them.
One of those insights hit me again recently.
…a Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ. Among men there is strife. ‘He is our peace,’ say Paul of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:14). Without Christ there is discord… between man and man…. Without Christ we should not know God… But without Christ we also would not know our brother, nor could we come to him. The way is blocked by our own ego. Christ opened the way to God and to our brother.From Life Together, Chapter 1
We are always in danger of either making gods of the people around us or basking in the worship others give us. Both are wrong, and they end up creating discord, as Bonhoeffer says.
Sure, we don’t light candles and bow to each other. This is 2020. But emotionally, we can commit all sorts of other idolatries that mess with us. They sprout in the co-dependent and abusive relationships we can’t leave, the friends we desperately need to validate us, and the actors we have a thousand pictures of on our walls. We can make an idol of the cultural ideal in our heads of the perfectly put-together man or woman we are constantly trying to be.
Christ needs to stand between us and the world around us. We must see everything through the lens of his life, death and resurrection. He is the mediator between us and everyone.
An Unholy Bond
A few years ago, my sister had to take care of our kids because my wife and I were going through a very rough patch in our marriage. I am incredibly thankful for how much help she gave us, but I found that I was giving her advice to me an unhealthy weight in my life.
My value as a father and husband became emotionally tied to her opinion of me and everything I did. If she thought I was doing well as a father and husband, it was like God was smiling on me. If she thought I was doing badly, my heart would sink. Eventually, I had to physically distance myself from her for a time.
In the middle of this, though, I began placing Jesus between the two of us. I still cared about her opinions, but I always turned to Christ finally to give me my worth. I let his opinion be the first I turned to. Whenever I saw her, I saw Jesus as well. My first questions became, “Is Christ ok with me? What does he think of me as a father and husband? Am I following his lead?”
A Holy Anchor
This year, all of us have come to realize just how important being close is. It is good to feel that fellowship of community, but community becomes dysfunctional when we lose our anchor in Christ.
We should never want someone to look to us exclusively for help or to give our advice the same importance as God’s own Word. We should never put all our faith and emotional currency into another human being – not a priest, not a pope, not a spouse, not a close friend, not a spiritual director, no one. Christ is our light.
And if we do listen to our priest, as we should, let it be to hear Christ’s words in his voice. If someone listens to us, let it be so they might find Christ in our words. If we do good for them, let it be Christ they see in us.
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,Prayer of St. Patrick
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
©2020 Catholic Anonymous