Dear Father Joe: How does God want me to serve him and do his will?

DEAR FATHER JOE: Sometimes our faith seems so complicated. I listen to different people insist that I have to do certain things to be a good Catholic. I feel like I need a basic understanding of how to be holy: How does God want me to serve Him and do His will? Can you help me?

Good heavens, I hope I can help. I type that because I know this fight. I have a busy, busy brain. I have a busy, busy life, and I have no shortage of experts all around me telling me how a priest should be, what a priest should preach on, and how a priest should act. I often tell people that everyone is an expert on priesthood except me.

I have spent so much time in prayer and reading and thinking, trying to figure out how to be holy — how to be the priest that Jesus wants me to be.

To me, your question is exactly what all of us who want to love Jesus struggle with, and so, I’m blessed to share with you what I’ve learned so far.

The foundation of the answer is in remembering that God is your judge. Humans look at you and see what you are doing. God looks at you and sees it all: your intention, your desire, your struggles. He sees you at the deepest part of you, and He will be the one to judge you. You will not be judged by that gal who wrote a book. You will not be judged by the opinionated person with a podcast. You will be judged by God and God alone. This is who you want to make happy. This is who you want to approve of you.

And here is the good news: God approves of you. He has stacked the deck in favor of you getting to heaven. Your goal is to pray for the grace to be humble, prayerful, and concerned with the poor and vulnerable. Your goal is to make sure you call on the Holy Spirit to help you live like Jesus.

It’s also important to remember that you are not called to every fight. The reason God made so many of us and made us all so different is because one person can’t do it all. I’ve noticed that some folks take their personal call from God and assume it should apply to everyone. This leads me to my next point: Passion does not equal rightness.

I love passionate people; I’m one of them! But if I have learned anything about us passionate people, it’s that we need to be careful about pretending that just because we feel strongly about something, everyone else should, too.

It’s a balance between challenging ourselves to be holy and not confusing holiness with pretending we are God’s only answer to every problem.

In terms of what we believe, it’s pretty simple. When you strip away the layers, quiet the noise, and immerse yourself in Scripture and the catechism, you can soak in the core of it all, and the core of it all is this: We believe that God is a community of life and love. We believe that this community of life and love created the human race. This Trinity of Persons made humans for one purpose — to love. You could quite literally say that we were created by Love, for love, to love.

The problem is that, at some point, we humans “broke rank” and decided that we would go our own way. We decided to disobey God, and in the process, our human nature was broken.

In the breaking of our human nature, we became self-obsessed. We moved God off His throne and placed ourselves there.

Jesus came to take on that human nature, restore it, and give us victory over the two primary fruits of the breaking of human nature: sin and death.

He took on our sin and put it to death with Him on the cross.

He rose from the dead and made heaven a possibility for us.

He did this because He is Love and could quite literally do no other.

For we who long to love God, the noise can drown out the simple truth: Our faith is a response of love to love. We are called each day to think of and act on the word love, growing in our understanding of how God loves, how we love, and how the gap between that is filled with mercy and grace.

If we spend our life doing nothing but reflecting on what love is and how to love like God, we will be saints.

In the end, I hope that you can take a breath today and be at peace, knowing that God sees you. He sees what you do and why you do it. He sees how much you want to follow Him and love Him well, and this is all He needs to get you closer to Him each day.

Love God, grow in love, and be at peace.

Send your questions to: “In the Know with Father Joe, “Harvest magazine, 510 Ocean Ave., Portland, ME 04103or [email protected].