Friday, January 27, 2012

The Toughest of the Tough Questions

What has [the] Messiah Jesus actually brought? He has not brought world peace, and he has not conquered the world’s misery. So he can hardly be the true Messiah who, after all, is supposed to do just that. Yes, what has Jesus brought?.. He has brought the God of Israel to the nations, so that all the nations now pray to him and recognize Israel’s Scriptures as his word, the word of the living God. He has brought the gift of universality, which was the one great definitive promise to Israel and the world. This universality, this faith in the one God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—extended now in Jesus’ new family [the Church] to all nations over and above the bonds of descent according to the flesh—is the fruit of Jesus’ work. It is what proves him to be the Messiah.
Jesus of Nazareth, Part One, 116-7
Reflection – Here we see the fearlessness of Pope Benedict. He is not afraid to confront the toughest of the tough questions, which is not the question about same-sex marriage or priestly pedophilia at all. Rather, the question of ‘what good is Jesus, anyhow?’
This is the question that confronts all of us in our life somewhere. Besides the more global political concerns he lists above, there is the individual struggle we all have with our faith, one way or another.
Christians have the same problems as everyone else. Christians can and do fail in pretty much the same ways that anyone else can fail. Believing in Jesus is not a magic pill that takes all the pain away and instantly heals every illness and neurosis.
So what good is it? This is the tough question. It is not a tough question in my own inner dialogue, to be honest. I know what Jesus has done for me, the difference He has made in my life, and it is quite enough, thank you very much. Quite enough to leave me prostrate on my face before Him for the remainder of my years, even if He never does another thing for me.
It’s more the challenge of explaining this difference to those who may not have experienced it or something similar. What the Pope outlines above may seem a bit remote or abstract—so all nations can worship the God of Israel now. Ohhhkay… that clears that up satisfactorily! Not. But actually he knocks it out of the park here, as is his wont.
What it means is that every human being, because of Jesus, has direct access to God. God in Jesus has made Himself utterly available and present to every member of the human race. God is with us; we are not alone, and Jesus is the One who works this miracle.
I can hear the collective shrug of at least a few shoulders reading this. “God is with us – even if I believed that, whoop de doo! I should care why?”
And that’s where the challenge comes in – how to explain the difference this makes to those who may not quite know it already.
All I can say is that, if I had to choose between 1) having every physical and mental illness and being dirt poor and friendless and having God in Jesus; and 2) being in perfect health of mind and body and filthy rich and surrounded by friends and not having God in Jesus, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second. Monte, I’ll take what’s behind door number one!
And this is what the martyrs show us above all, and the great saints, too. They chose death rather than forsaking Christ, they gave up wealth and comfort and health and endured all kinds of trials and tortures rather than forsaking Christ. Words are cheap, easily written, easily forgotten. When we see the long and glorious line of men and women from the year 33 to today willing to die for Christ and proving it by dying, willing to live for Christ and proving it by heroic lives of service—well, we start to get the picture. Jesus makes a difference, if we give Him everything we have.
And this difference is available, here and now, for everyone.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks Father Denis, I've been shrugging my shoulders these past few days but this helps!
    -veronica f

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  2. This is wonderful Fr. Denis...but the last para about becoming a martyr for Christ is what frightens people, me included...Christians are accustomed to seeing Jesus all bloodied and broken on the Cross ...but for a non Christian it can be repugnant... i myself have only very recently begun to be able to contemplate the Agony and Passion of Christ...although i have experienced His Love so directly and abundantly all my life...yet, still cringe at the thought of martyrdom which I hope and pray I will be spared.
    june

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  3. True... I guess I'm remembering back when I read the book Urodivoi by Catherine Doherty for the first time at age 19 or 20. She goes a great deal into this 'bloody and broken' aspect of following Christ. What I took away from it was 'Gee, I guess this Jesus person is really... important? I guess?' It started a train of thought going which is still chugging along 25 years later! So it can go either way...

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