Lately, I've been doing a lot of reading and writing about the "tough questions" - a lot of apologetics, which has never been my strongest suit, and I'm probably coming off a little stuffy. Stuffy is perhaps somewhere the Spirit is guiding me right now. But.
I'm going to be a dad in as many days as I can count on fingers and toes, give or take (a few weeks, for those who are now pointing at their shoes and counting!). I'm terribly impatient. I want to impart knowledge in a few months (or tomorrow), not in a few decades when he's ready for heavy theology. Every time I try to list things I can teach early and often, one word keeps popping up. Some come and go, depending on my memory and mood that day, but one keeps returning:
Passion can mean one of two things. It’s an "intense motion of a human appetite" according to the Pocket Catholic Dictionary - one of those deep desires we all feel for something physical or emotional: food, sex, adventure, or maybe all three. These kinds of passions bring up all those heavy Catholic words like "morally culpable" and "concupiscence"; simply, these are the passions that can get us in trouble if they get out of hand.
The passion I'm talking about goes back to the original Latin "passio", referring to Christ's sufferings on the cross. Suffering's an odd thing to wish for my child, isn't it? One of the clearest lessons Christ taught on the subject is in the Gospel of Mark:
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Mark 8:34).
Christ’s words teach us an important lesson about passion - in fact, the important lesson about passion. In order to follow what should be our greatest, eternal passion – Christ – we must suffer. We must put down other things, so our hands are free to pick up the cross. That means we must sacrifice.
The two meanings of passion oppose one another – fulfilling “passio” means taming other appetites. We’re warned of the extreme end of sating other appetites by the First Commandment, in fact. If we worship another god – money, food, power, sex, etc. – then we are focused on that appetite, and we miss out on the greater passions.
We can apply this to other passions besides the following of Christ. We are, after all, meant to be an active part of this world, even while we keep ourselves aimed at the next. If you are passionate about a particular person (and remember that passion includes, yet goes well beyond, the physical here!), then you sacrifice other romantic relationships to be with that one person. If you are passionate about a sport, you sacrifice your time, other hobbies, and even your body to excel at that sport. If you are passionate about a subject, you study that subject deeply, veering away into other areas of study when they can support your primary goal.
God created our minds and bodies to be used. We are meant to be passionate creatures – about the many wonders that He created for us on this earth and, ultimately, for our greatest passion – the great Passionate One, Himself.
Reference: Hardon, John A. (2003) <cite>Pocket Catholic Dictionary</cite>: Abridged Edition of the Modern Catholic Dictionary. Inter Mirifica. Retrieved from http://www.therealpresence.org on May 11, 2007.