ISSUES OF FAITH: Everything comes down to love, grace, God

WE TALK ABOUT unity in our country or community, but this is just a word that makes a lot of people feel better in saying, like the “coexist” bumper sticker popular on Subarus.

Without sounding too squishy here, in a word, everything comes down to love.

You can’t coexist without love, or have unity without love. You really can’t have anything worth anything without love. So what is it, this seemingly most elusive of things?

Sometimes simply telling the truth is a sign of love.

We don’t often want to hear the truth, but there is something about the truth that is peace-inducing.

Sometimes people will say, “I’m glad I got that off my chest,” implying that the truth has in some way set them free.

It can be very humbling telling or admitting the truth when we want to avoid it.

The confessional is one place where we are told to confront the truth, and sometimes the lightness we experience when exiting the confessional is a testament to that, to truth.

The truth is truly liberating. As Jesus so powerfully said, it will “set you free.”

Who wouldn’t want to experience that?

Our experience with truth really seems to begin and end with where we get our information from.

If you think that you can cover all the bases and be a spokesman for truth, you are probably very wrong.

Two intelligent people can argue for hours, but it is like a squirt gun fight outside on a sunny day: What sticks to you will eventually evaporate, but you will enjoy the shooting nonetheless.

I recently talked with a woman at length who went on the women’s march in Seattle on Jan. 21. She was excited and empowered, and very angry.

I asked her why the march didn’t create a sense of peace, as I thought marches should. I didn’t understand the point of the march then, she said to me dismissively. This person was my daughter.

I told her that if there is no element of God in movements or marches, then ultimately they will fail, or simply dissolve into nothing.

On. Jan 23, I attended and participated in the March for Life at the state capitol in Olympia.

The steps from pillar to pillar were filled, and there was overflow in the street. It was a very cold, crisp day, the crowd estimated at over 5,000.

There were many children at this event because the speeches and words were simple and non-threatening, though the message was crystal clear: All life is sacred, even the protesters across the street.

Peace is the closest we will come to knowing the truth of God; it is God’s way of saying, “You are following my will and doing the right thing.”

We find this particularly at Mass in receiving the body and blood of Christ.

“Go in peace,” we are told as Mass concludes — a command and not a suggestion.

We receive graces when we do something that has the approval and encouragement of God, prayer being the key component in discerning this.

If you do not pray regularly, then you are not opening the gift that God has given you, namely himself.

When you seek God and open this gift, then the result should be a sense of peace because we have encountered truth, which is God itself.

God is love and truth, and it is very hard, if not impossible, to experience either without the grace of God.

If you want to change things without the grace of God, it will be like blood trying to flow through a blocked artery. This is why movements without God so often end in violence.

A look at the 20th century with fascism, communism and Nazism are real-life examples of this, and yet on a smaller scale, as we have seen in our country and elsewhere, this happens as well.

On another topic, some have been critical of Christianity and the Catholic Church, in particular for our commitment to the welfare of our country and the communities we live in.

A few simple facts: The Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental provider of health care services in the world.

The church operates roughly 18,000 clinics; 16,000 homes for the elderly and those with special needs; has 5,500 hospitals worldwide, mostly in developing countries; and in the United States, 10 of the 25 largest hospital systems are Catholic.

I could go on, but it’s Friday, and we all have things to do.

One more thing: As I entered the Capitol building to grab a moment of warmth, I noticed a large statue dedicated to Mother Joseph, a sister of Providence.

The inscription beneath said, “She made monumental contributions to health care, education and social works throughout the Northwest.”

The Sisters of Providence continue to this day, not surprisingly, and if you have made it this far in the column, then you should know why.


Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Mike Acheson is director of religious education at Queen of Angels Roman Catholic Church in Port Angeles and St. Joseph Parish in Sequim.

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