Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 21: The Effort of the Christian

When John Paul II wrote of The Effort of the Christian he wasn’t indulging a pelagianism here. Remember the lost son of Luke 15. He came to his realization, but he still had to put one foot in front of the other for that long and humiliating pilgrimage home to his father. Every sinner must make some effort.

When we speak of piety, what does it mean? How much is interior, a quality unseen by most people?

21. But there is another aspect to the mysterium pietatis: The loving kindness of God toward the Christian must be matched by the piety of the Christian toward God. In this second meaning of the word, piety (eusebeia) means precisely the conduct of the Christian who responds to God’s fatherly loving kindness with his own filial Piety.

This is a good start–placing our conscious life as a daughter or son of God. I like the orientation that piety is an expression of our place in the family of God. It seems a respect and acknowledgement of the Father must also imply appropriate relationships with sisters and brothers. As the eldest child growing up, my parents stressed the importance of setting a good example. I didn’t always succeed in that, but it strikes me that the Christian must always consider herself or himself the eldest, especially in regard to setting an example for others, especially non-believers. How we live, and even how we admit wrongdoing, ask and receive forgiveness, is part of the role with which we have been gifted. We confront sin, especially within ourselves.

In this sense too we can say with St. Paul that “great indeed is the mystery of our religion. In this sense too piety, as a force for conversion and reconciliation, confronts iniquity and sin. In this case too the essential aspects of the mystery of Christ are the object of piety in the sense that the Christian accepts the mystery, contemplates it and draws from it the spiritual strength necessary for living according to the Gospel.

An interesting saying from 1 John 3:9 unpacked:

Here too one must say that “no one born of God commits sin”; but the expression has an imperative sense: Sustained by the mystery of Christ as by an interior source of spiritual energy, the Christian, being a child of God, is warned not to sin and indeed receives the commandment not to sin but to live in a manner worthy of “the house of God, that is, the church of the living God.”(1 Tm 3:15)

Does that satisfy?

This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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