January 28, 2011


Pope Benedict admonishes us to keep first things first

“Above all else, we must try to make sure that people do not lose sight of God” (Pope Benedict XVI, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times, p. 57).

It’s a startlingly simple statement.

Above all else, the Holy Father says, we must make sure that we don’t lose sight of God. Simple, but not easy.

It can be argued that the original sin, the sin of our first parents, was losing sight of God.

As sinful people, we constantly focus on other things—good things, bad things, things that in themselves are neutral—but all too often, as a consequence, we lose sight of God.

That’s why, in response to a question about the most important law, Jesus says, “The first is: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:29-31).

The first commandment is to keep God first in our lives, and not be distracted by all the diversions offered to us by the Evil One. All the other commandments flow from this primary focus on God. If God is in the center of our vision, everything else is seen in its proper perspective.

“Above all else,” Pope Benedict says. This is much more than a casual connecting phrase. It is the heart of the matter.

First and foremost, before everything else, we must try to keep God first in our lives. God cannot be an afterthought. He cannot be someone we think about only when we are in trouble or filled with emotions of fear or joy or gratitude or hopelessness. We must keep God in sight always—above all else.

Nothing is more important, or more difficult, than keeping God in plain sight. The Church’s liturgy, her sacraments and devotions, her teaching and her charitable works are all designed to help us focus on God as the most important person in our life. The Church works hard to capture and maintain our attention, but there is strong competition, especially today.

The Church constantly strives to help us focus on God, but we must cooperate. We must attend Sunday Mass. We must receive the sacraments—especially the Eucharist and the sacrament of penance. We must participate. We must reach out to those in need. Above all else, whatever we do, we must not lose sight of God.

What happens when we allow other things to take priority in our life? We lose our way. We become spiritually empty, unhappy people. We focus on ourselves and on our selfish wants and desires. We forget who we are and how we are supposed to live as free people made in the image and likeness of God.

No one—with the exception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was conceived without sin—succeeds at keeping God in sight all the time. That’s why the Holy Father says, “Above all else, we must try ...”

Losing sight of God is part of our sinful human condition. Recovering our sight is the ongoing challenge of discipleship and continuing conversion of life.

How do we maintain—or regain—our vision of God? Pope Benedict provides us with a simple program. As Church, a community of Christian disciples standing together in faith, the Holy Father says, “the task is to live the faith in an exemplary way, to proclaim it and at the same time to keep this voluntary association, which cuts across all cultures, nations and times, and is not based on external interests, spiritually connected with Christ, and so with God himself.”

The task is simple but not easy—to live our faith, to proclaim it and, so, stay spiritually connected to God.

Above all else, let’s try to keep first things first. Let’s set aside all the distractions and turn to God as the No. 1 priority in our lives.

When God is at the center of our field of vision, everything else in our dark and dreary world becomes clear and bright.

—Daniel Conway

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