The path to Easter is Christ’s Way

By  Peter Copeland and Brendan Steven, Catholic Register Special
  • March 15, 2023

In this final stretch before Easter, let’s return to where we began — looking at the entirety of Christ’s way of being, as an integral whole of truth, goodness and beauty. Any other way risks removing something essential. 

How does Christ tackle problems of disagreement, of wayward sinfulness, of ideology and tribalism? He does it in a way that does not sacrifice truth for expediency or goodness for the sake of being right, and all that He does is beautiful. 

Christ teaches blessed are the poor in spirit: to be merciful, humble, pious, devoted, loving and self-sacrificing. He teaches that outer actions are a reflection of the inner person, so we are to make our hearts pure by ways that are gentle, faithful, loving and peaceful. To put aside lust, power, glory, pleasure and the pursuit of wealth is only ever a chore in the moment, but it is freedom when the pull of those things are left aside, and Christ fills the heart. For in doing so, we realize a disposition that is not consumed by desires that foster covetousness and leave us emptier, but one that is oriented to gift, and to love.

To defend or promote the Way with coldness, frustration or intellectual arguments alone is to miss the importance of Christ’s message, which is to act it out and let Him live in you, demonstrating one’s faith as a living testimony, highlighting the good, the joy and the lightness of being that comes with putting on Christ. 

Lumen gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution on the Church, describes this as a calling to “make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity.” Resplendence is the ideal where our imagination takes us in envisioning our work and how we share it with others. 

We cannot care for the poor in body or spirit without a lightness of heart, for care is always more than a transaction aimed at material need and righting injustice — it is a gift of self and a relationship, where solicitude reigns. We cannot pretend to have compassion for the sinner when we ignore our own sins; for, compassion is “feeling with,” and it withers under hypocrisy and dies with scorn. 

At the foundation of a healthy society is the family and the love, intimacy and respect children see modeled in husband and wife. We are cut off from genuine intimacy and romantic love when we abuse our sexuality. It can never be only desire, for then it is only a part of the person used as a good for oneself. We cannot separate the integral nature of truth, goodness and beauty without destroying the whole. 

The Way of Christ comes alive as the rich combination that it is in an oft-quoted example from John 8, when the Pharisees and scribes bring to Jesus a woman who has committed adultery. Condemn her to death, they demand, for the Law requires it. “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” he retorts. Goodness radiates in this moment — the gift of mercy Christ offers to a sinner. The beauty in His simple rejection of cruel judgment touches us all, as we feel the affirmation of her dignity — and our own, amid our own deep sinfulness. 

But the story doesn’t end simply with non-judgment. The accusers driven off, Jesus tells the woman that He does not condemn her — “Go on your way, and from now on do not sin again.” He has told her the truth about her sins and called her with authority to change. Nothing superfluous is added; gentleness, generosity and boldness are offered together in perfect completion. 

The truth accurately describes reality. The goodness shatters the walls around fortress hearts, as mercy and love melt us, open us up to the other. Finally, the beauty stirs us with a vision of what could be, what is possible. Thus, and only together, does Christ change lives and convert souls, even to this day.

We seek the integration of Christ’s Way in our apostolate. We want what we do to be not just factually correct and truthful to Christ’s example, or appealing to the soul, or morally correct, but overflowing with each, marked always by faith, hope and charity, and whenever possible, a healthy dose of joy.

(Peter Copeland is a writer and policy advisor, and thinker for organizations such as Catholic Conscience and the St. Monica’s Institute. Brendan Steven is a former executive director of Catholic Conscience.)

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