To make an intellectual assent to what the Holy Spirit teaches is the beginning of everything, but it's just that, a beginning. When I was first a Catholic I thought, in my zeal, that I had consented fully to everything the Church teaches. In a way, in my willingness to do so, I had. But just because we say we believe something doesn't mean every hidden part of ourselves has assented to it. From time to time I have experiences that remind me that the false doctrines of the world are still rolling around inside me, clung to by the old Adam as he seeks distraction from the bitterness and boredom he has bought for himself with his disobedience.
Two recent examples.
The other night I was watching some silly sitcom with a couple of the brothers. For whatever reason it came back to me when I was on the bus this morning. I thought of a scene in which two the characters, not married to each other, were lying in bed, lightheartedly discussing the sexual relations they had just had. I noticed that, at the time when I was watching the show, I didn't think anything of it. Despite wanting to give my life to Jesus Christ and his Church, and despite many, many hours sitting in the parlor and the confessional observing the misery we insist upon for ourselves with our disorderly sexual lives, somewhere inside me still dwells the false liberation of the world's pernicious doctrine that sex is o.k. and even expected outside of marriage, and, indeed, even outside of nature. But watching the show I thought nothing of it, and that makes me realize that my conversion is still shallow, and that I must begin again to ask God for the grace of belief.
The other example is perhaps more pointed. Today I was offering Mass at a parish for the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. In praying the Universal Prayer ad lib, I prayed that through the intercession of St. Paul, all those who did not yet believe in Jesus Christ would come to faith. Immediately the political correctness warning bell went off inside. 'Is that o.k. to say?' I second-guessed myself, as I do so many times. Is it o.k. to pray for unbelievers to come to confess Jesus Christ? Of course it is, if we really believe that there is no other name given to us by which we are to be saved, as Peter proclaims in Acts 4:12. In the gospel for today (Mark 16:15-18) we hear that those who fail to believe in Jesus Christ risk condemnation. So would it not be the greatest charity to pray for the conversion of those who do not believe, if we really loved them and wanted the best for them, namely salvation in this life and in the world to come? So then why did my little 'warning bell' go off? Because the religious indifferentism of our age, and the comfy, civil theology of 'many paths to one divine something-or-other' still lives in my assumptions. Part of me is still at home in the world and its errors, and has not yet surrendered to the scandal who is Jesus Christ.
So I thank God for these sort of experiences, which remind me that it should be easy for me to be humble, not because it's some sort of virtue, but because I have hardly made a beginning of living a spiritual life. But I want that Beginning, and pray that Jesus Christ might take my desire into his own Sacrifice, that I too might be transformed by the new creation that is his Resurrection.