The version of the Act of Contrition I was taught in my Catholic grade school said something like, “I’m sorry for my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pain of hell.” That is not a version that works for me as an adult Christian. It makes it sound like what makes us follow Jesus is the desire and hope for future reward and avoidance of future punishment. Be good, follow the rules today because of what it will bring in the future. But that is not what it is about at all.
Shane Claiborne, in his book The Irresistible Revolution quotes his teacher Tony Campolo as asking: “Even if there were no heaven and there were no hell, would you still follow Jesus? Would you follow him for the life, joy, and fulfillment he gives you right now?”
And Claiborne’s response is: “I am more and more convinced each day,” he says, “that I would.” If he were St. Paul, he might have phrased it, “The love of Christ impels me.”
Claiborne’s comment suggests a motivation for discipleship that is based on a deep love relationship with God now, a relationship and love out of which all of our actions flow. This is something my friend St. Ignatius embraced.) Under that view, we don’t do good so that we can be happy with God later. Instead we do what we do because that is the only possible response of a being in a love relationship with God.
How do you answer the question put by Campolo?
How do you describe the motivation for your spiritual life?