Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 16, 1978 when the first Mass was held at St. Monica Church, Northford.
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Father Joe Krupp

Q: Dear Father Joe: I know Jesus says we have to love everybody, but I really can’t stand one of the people I work with; we simply can’t work together. I’ve prayed about it, but no matter how hard I pray, I get angry just thinking of the person. How can I love this co-worker?

A: First things first, you are not alone! This is a very common problem that, I would imagine, everyone experiences at some point.

As Christians, we recognize how utterly important it is that we love. When Jesus was giving his last series of speeches before his Passion and death, he reiterated this over and over: “This I command you, love one another.” I think most of us know that, but we forget the end of that sentence: “ ... like I love you.”

Jesus isn’t simply giving us a command to love. He is telling us that our love needs to change and grow so that it looks just like his love — powerful stuff. If we don’t embrace that, we end up slapping the “love” label on everything we agree with and everything we want, until we hit the brick wall of people we don’t like. Then things can get very, very confusing.

So, let’s go step by step and see if we can’t figure out a way to love people we don’t like.

It seems to me that the first step has to do with that distinction — love vs. like. In that distinction, we find something I assume you’ll view as good news: As far as I can recall, Jesus never commanded any of us to like anyone.

To like someone normally indicates that we want to be around them. Maybe they make us happy, maybe we share hobbies or have complementary personalities — who knows? Whatever it is, there are people we run into or work with whom we want to be around. These are people we like.

Love, however, is something different.

When we are called to love one another as Christ loves us, then we want to make sure that we are adapting what we feel, what we want, to what Christ shows us. Love is not a feeling, it’s a commitment. I think the best way to think of it is this: When we love someone, we desire what is best for them. When we love someone, we act and move in a way that helps them get to heaven.

When you think of your co-worker, you feel irritation, anger, discomfort — things like that. That’s OK; you can’t help it. What you want to do is make sure that those feelings do not compel you to sabotage them or be apathetic when they need your assistance or support.

To be clear, you do not have to choose to be around them. You don’t have to pretend you like them. You don’t have to volunteer to hang out with them or be “besties.” What your faith in Jesus requires is that you love them.

What I’d like to do now is offer you some suggestions as to ways you can love them without liking them.

First, I want to be clear about an important distinction. It may be that the reason we don’t like certain people is because they are wicked or they act wickedly. If that is the case, we simply avoid them and make sure we don’t put ourselves in a position to be hurt by them. Keep the treasure that is you safe from evil, narcissistic people — I believe that is common sense. What I am dealing with here are the people we don’t like simply because our personalities clash, or they have different priorities than us, or different world views. I invite you to remember that your dislike doesn’t mean they are bad, dishonest, evil or any such thing. What we don’t want to do is pretend that our personality conflict means anything of value. Until the person we do not like proves to be evil or untrustworthy, we should be awfully careful not to pretend that our dislike has any real value. We should be careful not to ascribe awful motives to the person’s actions or decisions.

Second, make sure you are meek in regard to the person. To be meek means to refuse to do harm, and that is what you need to do. Remember — you don’t have to volunteer to be around your co-worker any more than your work requires. You don’t have to give him or her your time or your inner self in the same way you do a friend. You just need to make sure that you are not letting your personality conflict interfere with the person’s life. Don’t sabotage, don’t undermine.

Third, no gossip. Don’t talk about the person behind his or her back or get dragged into collecting horror stories about him or her. Don’t spread malicious talk or speculation.

Finally, pray for your co-worker’s well-being and salvation. Ask God every day to bless and guide him or her home to the kingdom of heaven. When the person irritates you or gets on your nerves, ask God to soothe you and to strengthen your commitment to act for his or her benefit.

So there it is! A guide to help us to love those we do not like.

May God bless our efforts to be the people he created us to be. Enjoy another day in God’s presence.

Father Joe Krupp is a former comedy writer who is now a Catholic priest.

Faithful readers – many of the questions I get begin with these four words: How can I help …?Faithful readers – many of the questions I get begin with these four words: How can I help …?

Dear Father Joe: I’ve heard a lot of things and seen a lot of pictures about heaven and I wonder if that is what it will be like. Will there be mansions and streets of gold, and will we become angels?

 

A: This is such an important issue for all of us  death affects all of us indirectly and will obviously affect all of us personally at some point. We try, as a Church and even in society, to describe the ideas of death, resurrection and heaven because that is important to us. Heaven is our goal. But if we forget our goal, we get lost.

I’m going to use Scripture and our tradition to answer these questions, with a lot of help from Dr. Peter Kreeft, my favorite philosopher and a guy who has written a lot about heaven. If you type “heaven” and his name into Google, you’ll find numerous helpful articles on this topic. So, with that in mind, let’s dive right in.

First things first: Do we become angels when we die?

Short answer? No.

It’s become popular in our culture to say, “Heaven gained another angel” when someone dies. I imagine this is just an expression we use and, in that regard, it can come across as harmless. However, I do want to point out that, as humans, we most certainly do not become angels when we die. We humans are unique in creation and have a special dignity. It seems to me that thinking that we have to change from human to something else in order to enter heaven can inadvertently have a lot of negative consequences, philosophically and theologically. I won’t burden us with those issues now, as that would probably take up more room than I have.

The key is this: As humans, you and I are totally different creatures than angels. Probably the most distinctive difference between us and angels is that we are body/soul unities, whereas angels are pure spirit. If we make it to heaven, we will join the angels there, but we will join them as humans.

So, what kind of humans?

If we look at Scripture, we see that what happens after our death is laid out for us.

When we die, our souls leave our bodies to face judgment and, at that point, the body begins to decay.

This judgment will result in our going to heaven or hell, with the understanding that, technically, purgatory is not separate from heaven.

At some point known only to God, Christ will return and, when that happens, our bodies will be raised and restored, and then will rejoin our souls wherever they are. (As an interesting side note, many Catholic cemeteries bury people so that, when their bodies rise up at Christ’s second coming, they will be facing east!)

Since we were created as body/soul unities, we will experience heaven or hell as body/soul unities.

So, what will that experience be? What will make heaven heavenly?

This is something that, for more than 2,000 years, Christians have tried to describe and, frankly, I don’t feel a lot of hope that I can do that better than most of them. The key is to think of it this way: All we can do is use imagery we know to express something that cannot be described.

My favorite image of heaven comes from St. John in the Book of Revelation. In it, he gives us images of people in heaven waving palm branches. Why is that? Why palm branches? They symbolize the scriptural account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem: In heaven, we are celebrating the King who conquered sin and death.

The key is this: The defining characteristic in heaven is ecstasy and the word itself gives us a sense of what heaven will be. When we look at the word “ecstasy,” we learn that it comes to us from the Greek word ekstasis, which means “standing outside oneself.”

We have hints and whispers of heaven and hell in our everyday life; the more selfish we are, the more selfish we act, the more miserable we get. We have seen people who live only for what they want and their ability to make life horrible for themselves and for everyone around them.

We have also all seen and experienced the wonder of selflessness. As counterintuitive as it is, when we live for God, when we live for others, we find a deep joy, a sense that goes beyond anything we can account for on our own.

I think this is what Jesus means when he tells us that we find our lives when we lose them. Christ, who knows our nature, who knows our hearts, knows that they “never rest until they rest in [God].” In heaven, we will be outside ourselves focused on what and who really matters: God.

I want to close with a quote from Peter Kreeft. When he was asked if we will be bored in heaven, his answer blew me away in its beauty and simplicity. He said:

“We won’t be bored because we are with God, and God is infinite. We never come to the end of exploring him. He is new every day.

We won’t be bored because we are with God, and God is eternal. Time does not pass (a condition for boredom); it just is. All time is present in eternity, as all the events of the plot are present in an author’s mind. There is no waiting.

We won’t be bored because we are with God, and God is love. Even on               earth, the only people who are never bored are lovers.”

Brothers and sisters, God has given us the hope of heaven. May we respond to his mercy and his call to holiness, so that we can live that hope with integrity and joy!

Dear Father Joe: Every year, Lent happens and I start off really hoping to make something of it. My intentions are the best, but it always seems like, the next thing I know, it’s Easter and I’ve missed it. Can you help me do better this year?

fr joe right thingQ: Dear Fr. Joe: I get really discouraged about doing the right thing. I never mean to be mean or disrespectful and yet I keep finding myself falling into it  how do I act like the person I want to be? I try so hard.