Updated: Apr 26
Written by Joseph M. Clem, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA
Article Tip: Consider reading the following with a close friend or family member.
LIVING IN TRUTH
We have an intellect that reasons toward truth, which prepares us for receiving faith.
Why do we think at all? We think in order to apprehend truth. Our reasoning power is a great gift given by God to help align our thinking to reality. None of us want to be deceived, but how often do we deceive ourselves by living in a distracted, disillusioned world via social media, entertainment (sometimes very harmful media), and putting on facades to hide our real selves? Are we honest with ourselves?
In addition to being open with ourselves, we need to be open to other people. Others can be helpful in protecting us from self-delusion, beginning with God as our closest confidant. How are you truly open to God in prayer about your doubts, insecurities, and deepest thoughts? Let His light shine on the darkest recesses of your mind. Let Him see you and love you. Practically, you will have a better idea of how to enrich your mind with the truth when you more clearly see dim areas. He will also be gentle with you when you have lied to yourself as a form of self-protection (e.g., trauma). Similarly, stay close to Christ-like family and friends in whom you can confide in your pursuit of truth.
Grow in the cardinal virtue of prudence (or practical wisdom) which will guide your intellect to discern what you ought to do. However, there may be times when something seems “unreasonable” but our faith shows us that it is God’s way, such as with the commandments. This grace to be super-rational (above our reason but not contrary to it) is the gift of faith. God assures us: “For, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). Lord, increase our faith.
LIVING IN FREEDOM
We have a will that wills toward freedom for the good which prepares us for receiving hope.
We are the author of our actions so we are tasked with the responsibility of training our will to be aligned to God’s will – for our own good and for the good of others. Authentic, Christian freedom enables us to act in accord with goodness. For this reason, we have to look at our moral life – as Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben famously advised: “with great power comes great responsibility.” Similarly, we should say ‘with the power to choose good or evil comes great responsibility.’ What are we doing that we know we should not be doing? What are we currently failing to do that we know we should do? How are we growing in self-discipline and keeping our commitments?
Grow also in the cardinal virtues of temperance and fortitude so that you have freedom from inordinate attachments and courageous freedom for doing the good. Sin leads to a “limited free-will,”1 but Jesus intended for us to be free from whatever holds us back from goodness.
We need God’s grace, and that includes the grace to act beyond our own natural volition (acting power). This super-volitional grace is the gift of hope so that we can persevere in freedom from sin and freedom for excellence. Lord, increase our hope.
LIVING IN CARE (LOVE)
We have a heart that has affection for the objectively beautiful and toward care (love) of God, others, and self which prepares us for receiving charity.
Allow your feelings to be part of your spiritual flourishing. In fact, excellence in virtue is discovered through a balance of “desire, will, [and] judgment,” “emotion, will, and knowledge,” “emotional, volitional, and rational search,” and “enduring dispositions of … minds, wills, and affect”.1
Do you have affection for God? Deep contrition for your sins? Deep gratitude for the forgiveness of your sins? Deep sorrow with Jesus in sorrow while meditating on the Passion? Deep joy with Jesus in joy at the Resurrection? What about your relationships with others? Are you hugging loved ones on a daily basis, saying “I love you,” and receiving this affection, as well? How are you allowing yourself to delight in the gift of another person? Have you expressed gratitude recently for the people in your life? Is someone in your life suffering whom you avoid so that you do not share in their suffering?
Grow in the cardinal virtue of justice by giving others their proper due as fellow human beings with inviolable dignity — coming from a heart of deep compassion for them, and including yourself as a recipient of that compassion.
There is some practical wisdom to the common phrase “fake it til you make it,” which means doing the action until you feel different or just so that the good is done, but don’t let it stop there! God wants to transform even your spiritual affections. However, we know that we need God’s grace to have affection beyond our natural human affection — we need the gift of charity, especially to love our enemies. With receiving God’s charity, it is then that our care (love) for God, others, and even ourselves becomes supernatural — super-affective. Lord, increase our charity.
JESUS IS OUR TRUTH, FREEDOM, AND CARE
Please pray the following so that Jesus has the final word on truth, freedom, and care:
"If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free … I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another … Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me." – John 8:31-32; 13:34; 14:21
Joseph M. Clem is a husband, father, and lifetime Youth Apostle. He practices as a licensed behavior analyst in Virginia working with children primarily diagnosed with Autism and volunteering in youth ministry. This article is not written under the scope and competence of board certification or state licensure.
1 Vitz, P., Nordling, W. J., & Titus, C. S. (2020). A Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person: Integration with Psychology & Mental Health Practice. Divine Mercy University Press: Sterling, VA