Simple and Complicated: Thoughts on Pope John Paul II and the Walking Dead

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G. K. Chesterton, English writer, thinker and Catholic convert wrote many books and essays on the nature of man, God and life. On his deathbed he summed it up in one sentence: “It is between light and darkness, and everyone must choose his side.”

A friend of mine once spoke of how complicated our Catholic faith is. I have come to realize that both Chesterton and my friend are correct. The Catholic faith is both complicated and simple.

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Jesus gave us the eight beatitudes and two commandments, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

We Catholics turned these commandments and beatitudes into the Catechism of the Catholic Church and libraries full of documents, writings and studies on our faith. Our Catholic faith is both complicated and simple because humanity is complicated and God is simple. In fact, God can even reduce His twelve commandments and eight beatitudes into one word: Love

God is Love.

So what is our response to this love? This is where we like to complicate things.

After watching Witness to Hope, a film about the life of Pope John Paul, II, I became intrigued with this man of God who has given the world, Theology of the Body – teachings on how the human body is created to respond to God. As someone who always hated her body; his teachings have turned my Catholic faith inside-out, upside-down and set it on fire.

A few weeks ago I bought the book Witness to Hope written by George Weigel so I can learn by reading what I should have learned by living through.

This book is not light reading. It is thick with facts, but the gems of wisdom are so precious they compel me to painstakingly read every word for fear I will miss one.

A few weeks ago, I am huddled in my corner chair reading the book while my sons and husband watch their favorite show, The Walking Dead. This show set amidst a zombie apocalypse pits a small rag-tag group of survivors against a majority population of walkers; dead people who somehow are still able to walk and eat.

As I’m reading, I find one of the gems of wisdom: Person and Act, a study by JPII. George Weigel writes about it (emphasis is mine):

Our personhood, he argues, is constituted by the fact of our freedom, which we come to know through truly “human acts.” In choosing one act (to pay a debt I have freely contracted) rather than another (to cheat on my debt), I am not simply responding to external conditions (fear of jail) or internal pressure (guilt). I am freely choosing what is good. In that free choosing, I am also binding myself to what I know is good and true. In this free choice of the good and true, Wojtyla suggests, we can discern the transcendence of the human person. I go beyond myself, I grow as a person, by realizing my freedom and confirming to the good and the true. Through my freedom, I narrow the gap between the person-I-am and the person-I-ought to be.

I sit back contemplating this, when I realize it is being played out on the TV:

The leader of the survivors, Rick, has to deal with a situation: A member of his group has been bitten by a zombie walker, but not killed. Fellow group members are yelling at Rick to kill the man before the inevitable occurs. He looks around and sees his wife, son and the others with terror-stricken faces. Rick knows this man will eventually become a flesh-eating zombie, but for now he is still a man and member of their group.

He turns to the bitten man trying desperately to decide what the correct response is. A scuffle begins as some of the others attempt to take matters into their own hands. Rick makes his choice and shuts it all down with the words, “We don’t kill the living.”

In a complicated situation, Rick chooses a simple good.

Our Catholic faith teaches various way to obey God’s simple command to love. It is why our faith is often described as a web because no matter where you land, you can take intricate strands back and forth, up and down but they all eventually reach the middle…God is love.

I have been making a conscious effort to decide how I “should” respond in the decisions and choices I make every day. To know the simple good, I have to know my faith. Because of God’s simple love for us, He provides it in as many complicated ways as we humans need, by way of Scripture and the Catechism.

Though I will never have to encounter zombie life or death, I may face issues in my family of unwanted pregnancy or removing life support. It’s comforting to know that our Lord will provide the simple answer to these complicated decisions. I trust my Catholic faith to narrow that gap between the woman-I-am and the woman-I-ought to be, and show me how to simply choose the good.

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About Nan Balfour

Coordinator for the annual Catholic Women's Conference, an apostolate of the Pilgrim Center of Hope - Catholic evangelization ministry in San Antonio, Texas. The Pilgrim Log is the blog of the Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry, providing weekly spiritual reflections to help you journey toward a deeper relationship with Christ. Learn more about the Pilgrim Center of Hope by visiting www.pilgrimcenterofhope.org.

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