Friday, September 23, 2016

Compete Well For the Faith

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

click here for readings


This past weekend I accompanied a group of twenty-one college students on a retreat about Spiritual Warfare. As this Sunday's reading from 1 Timothy reminds us, our spiritual life is a battle.
But you, man of God, pursue righteousness,
devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.
Compete well for the faith.
Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called... (1 Tim 6:11-12)
This eternal life to which we are called by God is not a given.  It is something we have to lay hold of.  It is something we must compete for.

Here are some key aspects to spiritual warfare that we need to keep in mind.

The Devil is Real
There are two mistakes we can make about the Devil.  One is to not believe in him at all.  This makes his job easy, because you won't be on guard against a threat you don't perceive.  The second is to see him everywhere.  There is a tendency to attribute every evil and temptation to the Devil, and this gives him too much power.  It also leads to fear, which is a victory for Satan.  God tells us, "Be not afraid!"

Spiritual warfare is fought on three fronts.  We battle against the world, against the flesh, and against the Devil.  By "world" and "flesh" I don't mean that these things are inherently bad.  God made the world and He made us, so the world and the people in it are inherently good.  But we are fallen, and the world has fallen with us.  We have a tendency to sin (the fancy word for that is concupiscence).  We don't know how to govern our passions well.  And the world is full of other people who also have these consequences of the fall.

We have desires and impulses that can lead us into sin, so we have to be disciplined and govern our passions.  There are worldly influences that can also tempt us away from God.  We must fight against these, as well.  These are very real aspects of spiritual warfare.  But these are passive threats. The Devil is actively out to get you.  He hates you.  He wants you to go to hell.  While we are capable of damning ourselves without the help of Satan, he wants to make it as easy as possible. We must be on guard against the Devil.  If we don't know who our enemy is, we can't effectively engage in the battle.

You Are Not Alone
If that sounds scary, remember this--just like the Devil and his demons hate you and want to steer you toward hell, God and all the angels and saints love you and want to bring you to heaven.

The saints and angels are your comrades and fellow soldiers in the battle for your soul.  Get to know them.  Read the lives of the saints and imitate their holiness of life.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  There are young saints and old saints.  There are saints who are priests, and saints who were married. There are saints who were scientists and poets.  All their stories are different, but they all share one thing in common.  They competed well for the faith and won the victory promised in Christ.  They can show you how to do the same.

And don't forget the angels!  The Catholic Church teaches that we each have a guardian angel assigned to us by God (Mt 18:10).  Your angel has one task -- to help you get to heaven.  He is your greatest ally in the fight against the Devil.  Get to know your guardian angel.

Use Your Weapons
Every warrior needs a weapon. The Church provides us with many spiritual weapons and we need to learn to use them effectively.  Some of those weapons are prayer, scripture and the sacraments. If you are not going to Mass, if you are not praying daily, if you are not reading the scriptures, then you are not in the fight.  These things are vitally important.  But don't discount sacramentals.  One of the cool things about being Catholic is all the "stuff."  We have rosaries and saint medals and holy water.  We have icons and statues and scapulars.  All of these things (especially when blessed by a member of the clergy) are wonderful tools to help us compete for the faith throughout our day to day lives.

Don't go unarmed into battle with the Devil. Take advantage of your weapons!

Keep Up Your Defenses
In a lot of vampire fiction, vampires cannot enter a person's home unless they are invited.  No one would willingly do that, so a lot of story lines involve the vampires cunningly tricking unsuspecting victims to invite them inside.

Satan is sneaky. No one is going to open the door to a big scary demon who comes knocking.  The Devil comes in disguise.  Think about Adam and Eve.  Satan didn't tempt our first parents to fall with an obvious evil.  He tempted them with fruit.  He tempted them with knowledge.  He tempted them with things that appear to be good. That's how he operates.  Don't fall for Satan's Trojan horses.  Very often he tempts us with things we think will make us happy, but actually go against God's love for us.

And by all means don't play around with the occult!  Things like Ouija boards and Tarot cards are not toys.  Necromancy (attempting to communicate with the dead), witchcraft, astrology and other occult practices are specifically forbidden in the scriptures (Deut 18:9-12).  You may be tempted to play around with these things "for fun" but Satan can use them as vehicles to enter into your life.  Don't give him that opportunity.

We also have to be wary of accepting the devil in small ways.  He can enter in through gaps in your defenses through small, venial sins.  St. Teresa of Avila, in her spiritual classic, The Interior Castle, likened these to little lizards who enter in through cracks in the castle wall.  I raise sheep, and our pasture is protected by a strong fence. But it's not enough for me to build the fence.  I have to walk the perimeter on a regular basis to inspect it and make repairs as needed.  We need to do the same thing in spiritual warfare by making a daily examination of conscience and regular confession to a priest.  A good spiritual director also helps!

The War Has Been Won
This is the most important point of all.  The good news about spiritual warfare is that this war has already been won for us.  It would be wrong to think about Satan and God as two equally matched opposing forces.  They are not.  Satan is a powerful creature, but he is a creature.  God is the Creator. Jesus Christ has defeated the Devil definitively on the Cross.  If we stay close to Him, we will share in His victory.

The Choice is Yours
If God loves us and wants us to be with Him in heaven, and if Christ has already won victory over the Devil, then why do we have to fight?  Why does God allow Satan to have any influence over us at all? God loves us, and because of that love He made us with free will.  This freedom to choose is what allows us to love God.  But that same freedom makes it possible for us to reject Him.  God won't force us into heaven, but neither will God allow Satan to force you into hell.

God will not permit Satan to violate your free will (read the book of Job).  You have the choice between God and Satan.

Keep Fighting!
If you feel like you are struggling at times, don't despair!  That's to be expected. It can feel frustrating to repent of your sins, go to confession, and continue to struggle with the same sin.  But that struggle is good!  It means you are still in the fight!  It's when you stop struggling against sin and the Devil that you need to worry.

As I said above, Jesus Christ has already won this war.  With Christ as our commander, the only way we can possibly lose it to give up. So don't give up!  When you take a spiritual hit and fall into sin, get to confession, and get back in the fight.  Compete well for the faith!


Friday, September 9, 2016

A Christ Without Forgiveness is No Christ at All

24th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (C)

click here for readings

Rembrandt's depiction of the Prodigal Son
All of the readings in this Sunday's Mass underscore one basic theme -- God forgives.  You'd have to be blind to miss the message.

In the reading from Exodus, we see the Israelites just after God liberated Israel from slavery in Egypt.  Almost immediately, they turn from God to worship false idols.  And God forgives them.

In the reading from St. Paul's first letter to Timothy, Paul recounts how he was a blasphemer and a persecutor, the foremost of sinners.  And yet in Christ he has been forgiven, even to the point of being one of His Apostles.

And in our gospel reading from Luke, we find perhaps the greatest story of forgiveness, the parable of the Prodigal Son.  In this story Jesus tells as a metaphor of how eager God is to forgive the repentant sinner, the father runs to his son, embraces him and kisses him.  He throws a huge party!  God doesn't just forgive, He forgives lavishly, and with abundance.

You'd have to be blind to miss the message.  Sadly, so many are blind.  So many present a Christianity without redemption, a God without mercy, a Christ without forgiveness.  Such a Christ is no Christ at all.

Earlier this week I had a brief exchange with a woman who had given Christianity a try and found it left a bad taste in her mouth.  She's not Catholic, and I did not ask the denomination of the church she attended.  But she didn't find Christ there, because she didn't find forgiveness.  

She is a single mother.  Her status as a single mother marked her as a sinner, and that is how the people in that church viewed her.  They condemned her and made her feel like a person beyond redemption.  As she put it, "They condemned me for what I had done. But I couldn't go back and not do it.  I couldn't ever not have my child. So I knew I'd never be accepted there."

I tried my best to assure this young woman that what she heard preached in that church was not Christianity, but something else.  Let's go ahead and call it what it is -- heresy.  Christ came for one reason and one reason only -- to reconcile sinners to the Father.  He offers forgiveness.  A Christ without forgiveness is no Christ at all.

What would be the Catholic response to such a young mother? “Yes, you have sinned in the past. So have I. So has everyone. Sex outside of marriage is a sin. It’s no doubt one of many you have committed. But having that baby is not a sin. Being a mother is not a sin. These are good things, and occasions for grace! God offers forgiveness and mercy for the sins of our past. He also offers us strength to help us avoid sins in the future. He loves you. He wants to heal you and help you. He wants to show you the beautiful saint He intends for you to be. The Church is where you will find God’s mercy. The Church is where you will grow in grace. The Church is your home.”

If you are staying away from the Church because you are afraid you will be condemned for the actions of your past, have no fear.  The Church is full of sinners -- some of them reformed, many still working on it.  The one thing every Christian has in common is the realization that we are sinners in need of forgiveness.

But we must also realize, and trust in the fact, that God is eager to forgive.  How many Catholics avoid the confessional because they are afraid to face condemnation?  In fact, what is offered in the sacrament is the opposite of condemnation -- it is redemption!  We go to confession in order to turn the sorrow we feel over our sins into rejoicing!  Jesus tells us, "there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance" (Lk 5:7).

The only way God won't forgive us if it we don't ask.  The only limit on His mercy is our free will.  He wants to bring us to Himself, but He will not force us.

So if you feel shame over your sin, let it draw you to the Church, not away from it!  For it is in the Catholic Church were you will encounter Christ -- the real Christ -- who longs to draw you up to Himself on the cross, where He bears each one of your sins, so that you may rise to a new and holy life in Him.  

Friday, September 2, 2016

Counter-Cultural Wisdom

23RD SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (C)

click here for readings


On September 4, the Church will officially add to the canon of saints the name of a tiny Albanian nun who lived a radically counter-cultural life, embracing poverty and caring for the most down-trodden in society.  Why would anyone do such a thing?

The wisdom of the world would say this is foolishness. The world says that we should pursue fame and fortune, or at least a good job, a nice house, a couple of cars in the garage and a vacation every year.  These are the hallmarks of success.  Then again, Mother Teresa (soon to be St. Teresa of Calcutta) once said, "God did not call me to be successful; He called me to be faithful."

Sometimes that's hard, especially when the faith runs counter to prevailing cultural wisdom.  Jesus says some very counter-cultural things in this Sunday's gospel (Lk 14:25-33).  He says to hate your father and mother, renounce all your possessions, and to take up your cross--the instrument of your own torture and execution. Who would choose to do any of that?

The wisdom of God can sound like foolishness to our ears.  But why would we expect otherwise? Our first reading from the book of Wisdom (Wis 9:13-18) basically says, we have a hard enough time understanding worldly things, and we live in this world.  So what makes us think we can ever understand heavenly things?  We can't. We have to trust God to show us the path to holiness.

Christianity has for several generations now been in decline in the western world. The silver lining to this is that we get to be counter-cultural again.  In the early days of the Church, to be a Christian was to be a rebel.  It was to thumb your nose at what the world said you should consider important so that you could pursue a holy life, often at great personal risk.   Today once more, to be a practicing Christian is to be a rebel.

I had a conversation with a young woman who was about to be married, and who knew the Church's teaching about contraception. We had talked often about it.  But her mother offered a different wisdom.  You should be on the pill.  If you don't use contraception, you will never finish grad school.  If you don't use contraception, you'll never get a good job.  You need to use contraception.  It would be foolish not to.  Don't listen to the Church.

How often does the world tell us that if we follow Christian teaching, we won't really be happy?  The world tries to tell us that the Church doesn't really know what it's talking about.  It's outdated, or unrealistic, or impractical.  Following the Church's teaching is foolish.  But Jesus calls us to be faithful fools. He smiles and says, "Just trust me."

Jesus called a little Albanian girl to enter religious life and renounce all her possessions.  He called her to start her own order, dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor.  She had no idea how she would do it.  Jesus called her to be faithful.  He said, "Just trust me."  So she did.

Jesus does the same thing for you and I any time the teachings of the Church seem to run counter to the wisdom of the world.  He calls us to be faithful.  He says, "Just trust me."

God loves you more than you will ever know.  He created you. He knows the best way to call you to Him.  Often that call will run counter to the call of the world.  Sometimes His ways may seem foolish.  It's OK.  Be a fool.  Be a rebel.  Be counter-cultural.  But be faithful.  Trust in Him.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Virtue of Humility

TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (C)

click here for readings

Our readings this Sunday speak to the virtue of humility. Jesus teaches that the one who exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.  He offers a parable (as He often does) to illustrate the point.  If you are invited to a wedding banquet, don't presume to sit in the place of honor.  Sit in a lower place and your host may invite you to a higher position.

Once I was having lunch at a meeting of diocesan employees. I was one of the last in line and so by the time I got my plate most of the seats were taken.  There was an empty seat next to the bishop, as well as an unoccupied table in the corner. Thinking of this parable, I sat down at the empty table.

Perhaps His Excellency had the same parable in mind when he called me over to sit by his side.  It certainly felt nice to be so recognized and welcomed by the bishop. Had I presumed to take the seat next to him initially, I would not have known his generous welcome.  I would instead be wondering if I had taken the rightful seat of another.

But is this the only reason to be humble -- so that we may occasionally get "warm and fuzzy" feelings when someone recognizes us?  Should I say I'm not that good of a singer in order to solicit complements on my singing voice?  Should I say I'm not that good looking so that people will tell me how attractive I am?  To be humble as a means of fishing for complements is a false humility.  It is, in fact, a form of pride.

The Catechism defines humility as "the virtue by which a Christian acknowledges that God is the author of all good."  So humility is less about recognizing how lowly we are than about recognizing how great God is.  If we know that God is the author of all good, then we know that we are not.  

Humility is about living in truth.  It is about recognizing who you are before God.  He is the Creator.  You are a creature.  He is infinite.  You are finite.  He is great.  You are small.  He is the source of all goodness.  You are the recipient.  

Our first reading from Sirach speaks of the humble finding favor before God.  It warns against seeking things that are beyond our reach or that are too sublime for us.  The goodness of God is beyond our reach.  Heaven is too sublime.  In humility, we need to recognize this.  We cannot create our own heaven.  We cannot be our own gods.

But our second reading from Hebrews reminds of an another important truth.  As Christians, we deign to approach that heavenly Jerusalem -- but not because of our own merit.  We can only approach God's splendor because of Jesus Christ, "the mediator of the new covenant" (Heb 12:24).

The philosopher Peter Kreeft has said that when we stand before God at our judgment and He asks why we should be admitted into heaven, our answer should not begin with "because I..." but must begin with "because You..."  

The Catechism also calls humility "the foundation of prayer" (CCC 2559).  Humility is a prerequisite for prayer for the same reason it is a prerequisite for salvation -- one cannot approach God in any way other than in humility.

This is why the Jesus Prayer is so powerful, and so enduring.  It is a prayer of humility.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
have mercy on me, a sinner.

This simple prayer is perfectly humble because it is perfectly true.  It has Jesus as its object, and rightfully acknowledges Him as the Christ, the Son of God, as Lord.  The one praying is the subject, rightfully acknowledging his or her sinfulness before the perfect goodness of God.  And it asks for what we most desperately need from our Savior -- mercy.  One who is not willing to be humble before God is incapable of receiving God's mercy.

In Christ, God humbles Himself, and paradoxically opens for us the path to exaltation.  Often in the gospels, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast.  God has invited us to this feast. We take the lowest seat at the banquet when we recognize our own limitations as frail and fallen human beings.  In Christ, God asks us to join Him at the place of honor. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Praying with the Church

What is Evening Prayer?

You don't have to be a monk to pray like one!
Every Wednesday evening students gather at the Catholic Student Center at 6:30 for a free home-cooked meal and fellowship together.  But more happens on Wednesday evenings at CCM than just dinner.  For those who wish to arrive early, we meet in the chapel at 5:30 for Adoration and conclude at 6:00pm by praying Evening Prayer together.

So what is Evening Prayer?

Also called Vespers (its name in Latin), Evening Prayer is part of the Liturgy of the Hours.  So what is the Liturgy of the Hours?

As the name implies, it is part of the official liturgy of the Church.  Liturgy means literally, "the work of the people," and refers to that public and corporate prayer offered by the faithful, not just as individuals but specifically as members of the Body of Christ, for and on behalf of the Church.  The liturgy we think of most often when we hear the word is the Mass (which consists of two parts, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist).  But every sacrament in the Church has its own liturgy, such as the Rite of Baptism, or the Nuptial Rite for marriage and so forth.

Rather than being associated with a sacrament, the Liturgy of the Hours is associated with time and our day-to-day lives.  It consists of prayers and petitions, mostly centered around the Psalms, offered at certain hours throughout the day, at morning, daytime, evening and night.  The purpose is to sanctify our whole day to God.

Have you ever heard a priest talk about praying the Divine Office or the Breviary?  Those are other names for the Liturgy of the Hours.

It surprises many to discover that priests are not required by Church law to offer Mass every day (though most do).  However, they are required by law to pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily.  This tells us just how important the Church considers this form of prayer.  Who else is required to pray the Liturgy of the Hours?  All clergy (including deacons), as well as professed religious (nuns, sisters, monks, friars, etc.) are required to pray all or part of the Liturgy of the Hours.

As lay people, the Christian faithful are encouraged, though not required, to also pray the Liturgy of the Hours as much as they are able.  Today, there are apps and web sites designed to help people pray the Liturgy of the Hours on the go, even without books, making it easier now than ever for the lay faithful to join in this daily prayer of the Church.

If you've never experienced this sort of prayer, we encourage you to come give it a try.  It only takes about 15 minutes, and we serve dinner afterwards.  We are trying something new this year, which is to pray Evening Prayer together in song.  The Liturgy of the Hours consists mainly of psalms, which are meant to be sung, after all.  We find that singing the prayer lends an added element of sanctity to the office, and -- even though it may seem counter-intuitive -- actually makes it easier to follow along and participate.  We use simple psalm-tones which you can pick up in just a few seconds.

Please do consider joining us any Wednesday at 6:00 for sung Vespers this semester.  God will reward your effort and devotion!

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Simple Choice

TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (C)

click here for readings

Jesus rescuing sinners from the mouth of the devil.
When Jesus is asked how many people will be saved, He doesn't give a number. Instead, our gentle Savior speaks of "wailing and grinding of teeth" from those who will be cast out.  

You have to feel a little bad for homilists who have to welcome freshmen on the first Sunday of the new semester by preaching about wailing and grinding of teeth (hopefully not a commentary on what your time here at Western will be like!).  It would certainly be easier to preach on some of the more comforting words Jesus gave us.  Be not afraid.  Love one another as I have loved you.  Consider the lilies.

Yet this gospel reading is very appropriate for the start of a new year on campus.  Jesus' harsh words remind us that we have a fundamental choice to make -- do you want to go to heaven or not?  

A priest recently began a homily by telling his congregation that they could either become a saint or go to hell.  We don't often hear it stated so bluntly, but that's entirely true.

We tend to think of saints as the heroes of our faith who lived lives of virtue unobtainable by most of us.  They are heroes, and they did lead virtuous lives, but we are mistaken if we think saintly virtue is only for the few.  God made us each to be saints.  We may only know the names of a few saints that have been formally canonized by the Church.  But there are countless other saints whose names we do not know.  Being a saint is simply about living virtuously and becoming the person God made you to be.

We can't do it on our own.  Jesus is not saying, "Be good enough and you can earn your way into heaven."  None of us deserves heaven.  Yet God made us to be saints, but that is an end beyond what our nature is capable of.  By making us for sanctity, He calls us to something higher than ourselves, and for that we need to rely on Him.  Holiness requires cooperating with God's work in your life.

God will not force us to be something we don't want to be.  I saw a political cartoon recently that showed a "pro-choice" politician standing before God on Judgment Day.  God said, "I am personally opposed to hell, but I respect your right to choose."  If we choose to turn away from God, He will respect that.  This is the definition of what hell is -- eternal separation from God.  God doesn't send anyone there, but many choose it on their own.

College is a time of choices.  Not just your major, but other important, every day choices.  What friends will you make?  How will you spend your time?  Who and what will you allow to influence you?  Will you go to Mass?  Will you make your faith a priority?  Will you cooperate with God's will for your life?  Will you strive to enter through the narrow gate?  Will you grow in love and holiness during your time here?

At the end of the day, all of these choices will help you to make the one fundamental choice that we all must make.  Will you become a saint, or go to hell?

If you choose to become a saint, we at Catholic Campus Ministry will do everything we can to help you along that path.  We can't wait to make that journey with you.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Being Faithful

NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (C)

click here for readings

What does it mean to be faithful?  To answer that question, let us first take it out of the context of religion.  We use the word "faithful" often to describe a marriage relationship.  Husbands and wives, we understand, are called to be faithful to one another. Two people pledge themselves to one another exclusively. 

What does it mean for a person to be faithful to their spouse?  The most basic answer is not having extramarital affairs.  Anyone who is engaged in adultery we would say is being unfaithful.  It doesn't matter if the spouse discovers the affair or not.  Being faithful in your marriage is not just about when your spouse is looking.  It means being faithful even when your spouse is absent.  Otherwise, it is not really faithfulness at all, only the appearance of such.

Further, we understand faithfulness to be about more than outward actions.  Faithfulness is also a matter of the heart.  One may not be carrying on a physical affair, but if a husband spends his lunch hour browsing sites like Tinder.com or looking in the personals section of Craig's list, he is not being faithful in his heart.  Any wife would justifiably feel betrayed.

One of the strongest metaphors used to describe our relationship to God is marriage.  In the famous passage from Ephesians 5 when St. Paul talks of marriage, he ends by saying, "This is a great mystery; I speak of Christ and the Church" (Eph 5:32).  The Church is called the Bride of Christ; Christ is the Bridegroom.

So our understanding of marriage can help us to understand what it means to be faithful to God.  Would anyone consider a wife faithful to her husband if she kept her marriage vows just one day per week?  Not at all.  Yet for many Christians, this is how they treat their relationship with God.

I go to Mass every Sunday.  That's very good.  Do you carry your relationship with God into the other six days of the week?

I pray with my family before meals.  That's very good.  Do you also pray alone, when no one is watching?

Being a Christian is not about going through some ritual motions.  It's about entering into a covenant relationship with God.  Just as in marriage, that relationship is exclusive.  There are certain acts which are incompatible to a marriage relationship.  Adultery, whether in the flesh or in the heart, violates the faithfulness of marriage.  Likewise there are acts which are incompatible with a healthy relationship with God.  To be part of the Bride of Christ means following His commands.  These are the terms of the covenant. We can be adulterous in our relationship with God when we fail to live by them -- even when we think no one is looking.

All of our readings for this Sunday speak of being watching, ready and vigilant -- of being faithful.  Just as the wife remains faithful to her husband even when he is away from home, so we are called to be faithful to Christ, even when He is not with us in the flesh.  

The letter to the Hebrews reminds us of Abraham and Sarah (Heb 11:8-19), who followed God's commands even though they didn't understand where they were being led.  They trusted in the Lord, and that trust allowed them to stay faithful to their calling.  

In our gospel (Lk 12:32-48), Jesus speaks of servants waiting vigilantly, with lamps lit, ready to meet their master's return from a wedding (again, the marriage metaphor).  Even to the second or third watch, they remain vigilant to be ready for the master's return.  Christ speaks also of servants whom the master has entrusted to distribute food.  If they carry out this duty faithfully in his absence, they will be rewarded.  

Being faithful is not about acting as you ought to only when you are being watched.  It is not about going to church on Sunday so you can be seen by the pastor.  It's something you carry with you every hour of the day.  You should be faithful to God in your studies, in your work, in your leisure time, in your relationships with others, in your heart and in your mind.  If you are only faithful when it is convenient, or when you think others are watching, it is not faithfulness at all.

But that's so much!  Who can be vigilant and faithful at every moment?  Is it too much to ask a husband or wife to be faithful to their spouse at every moment?  No.  For the married couple, faithfulness is not a chore, but a joy, because they do it out of love!  It is my pleasure and my privilege to be faithful to my wife every single day, because she is the only one I choose to give myself to.  She would say the same for me.  Can the demands of marriage be a burden at times?  Sure.  But it is a burden we both bear happily, because it is born with love.

And so faithfulness at all times to God becomes a joy and a privilege when we give ourselves to God in love.  Can it be burdensome sometimes?  Certainly.  I'm sure the cross was burdensome to Christ, but it was a burden He bore willingly out of love for us.  Jesus teaches, "For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be" (Lk 12:34).  If our treasure, that which we value most, is in God, then our hearts will be faithful to Him in all of our thoughts, words and actions.

But what happens when we are not faithful?  Adultery can be disastrous to a marriage.  But it doesn't have to be.  I've seen marriages recover from unfaithfulness when spouses are willing to forgive one another.  If we have been unfaithful in our relationship to God, we can take solace in this -- God is always faithful, and God is always ready to forgive.  We may break our covenant with Him, but He will never break His covenant with us.  

So be vigilant.  Be constant.  Trust in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.  For this, above all, is what He asks of you -- to be faithful in all you do to His loving will.