Living ‘multiple’ lives

This past Monday at daily Mass we heard Jesus tell us that “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mk 3:24-25). We can quickly use these words to begin a conversation to address the division that exists in our country, world and even our Church. Certainly, healing is necessary in our country, world and even our Church. However, Jesus’ words should draw our attention to ourselves and not just to everyone else.

The divisions we encounter in our lives aren’t just I agree, you disagree, yes, no. In the 21st century we tend to live lives that are incredibly divided within ourselves. Ever hear the term “double life”? It describes when a person presents one way, but secretly is living very differently. Many of us are living triple, quadruple or more lives. These multiple lives are more than secret and aren’t just our struggle with sin, addiction, temptation, etc. We tend to categorize our lives: student, athlete, son or daughter, friend, worker, etc. 

We are told that we need to give 110 percent to all of these areas. Be a good student. Be active and involved in sports, drama, school clubs, scouts, etc. Actually, be involved in multiple clubs — looks better on a college application or resume. Be a good daughter or son, a good friend, a good neighbor. Be sure to get a job, work hard, be responsible with your money.

Phew. I’m exhausted just writing about all of this. The danger is we forget who we truly are. We are so busy doing, we identify ourselves by our actions and activities. The more we become involved, the more restless we become, the more disconnected to others and the world we become. We keep giving, but we don’t take time to recharge. When we do get time by ourselves, time that could help us strengthen our sense of being, we feel stressed or believe that something is wrong because we aren’t “doing anything.” 

Here is a question for reflection: How does your time at Mass on Sunday play a role in your time in class? How about your time at practice or in a game? Your time with friends on Friday night? Your time with family? How does your time at Mass shape the conversations you have in all those settings?

If we are all honest with ourselves we will observe that there are times (and perhaps many times) that our time in church has no relevance to all those other situations. This becomes an indication that often we go to church, but aren’t living faith. We have categorized faith to an hour on Sunday or less. Even our involvement in youth ministry, campus ministry or other parish activities are categorized to Church life. Living faith isn’t locking yourself in church 24/7. It isn’t saying “holy” things all the time. It is about living an integrated, balanced life, one where faith nourishes and guides us through the rest of our lives.

Now, there is no easy fix to this, nor is it realistic to expect that we can change everything starting right now. We can recommit ourselves to our relationship with Christ, a relationship that involves the Sacraments. In these encounters with the Lord, we are given the graces to remain rooted in Him, giving us a stable foundation for our lives. In addition, these graces give us the strength to persevere in changing our lives so that we can live the integrated, balanced lives that allow us to flourish in life.

Anchor columnist Father Frederici is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Pocasset and diocesan director of Campus Ministry and Chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College.

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