Sunday, August 5, 2012

How Are You Doing With That?

In the same vein he says to the Thessalonians: you must not “grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Th 4:13). Here too we see as a distinguishing mark of Christians the fact that they have a future: it is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness. Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well.

So now we can say: Christianity was not only “good news”—the communication of a hitherto unknown content. In our language we would say: the Christian message was not only “informative” but “performative”. That means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known—it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.
Spe Salvi 2

Reflection – So here we see what I wrote about yesterday—the logos of the hope of Christianity. What is the difference Christianity makes, and why does it give us hope and so empower us to act and live in the present in a certain way?

Because of Christ, death has no power over us any more. That’s it, basically. The fear of death, the terrible dread that drives our world, along with the fear of suffering that is it’s intimate companion, is simply not to be ours. Christ suffered and died for us, and his suffering and death were and are the salvation of the world. So we need not be afraid of suffering or death, since a glorious future has been assured for us through, with, and in this Lord who is all in all.

So, how are you doing with that? How am I doing with that? Afraid of death, much? Afraid of pain, much? This is truly something we need to take to prayer, you know. Of course there is a natural fear of pain and death that resides in our very bodies and is not subject to our rational wills. Jesus himself manifests this species of fear in the garden of Gethsemane. Our flesh shrinks from the cross.

But we need to pray and think very hard about the fear of pain and death that does reside in our reason. Because the world is tearing itself to pieces over the fear of pain and death. Abortion is legal, and millions of human beings have died from abortion, because of fear of pain and death. Economic injustice—unchecked avarice and gluttony—is driven by nothing else than the fear of pain and death. Euthanasia will be legalized to the extent that the fear of pain and death goes unchecked, and millions more will die from that evil in the decades to come.

So if we Christians don’t get our act together, a little bit at least, on this point we are really doing the world a disservice. We know Christ is risen. We know that a glorious future awaits all those who put their trust in Him. We know that suffering joined to Him is a glorious treasure, a way of co-redeeming the world with Him. We know that there is nothing to fear in this world but sin, and nothing to seek in this world but love.

Why do we act so differently, so much of the time? Or, why do we act the same as everyone else, so much of the time? Act as if the worst possible thing that could happen to us is suffering, and that death is a dreadful calamity. And so any course of action that will lead to suffering must be avoided, and any snatching at pleasure is to be excused if not approved. The pleasure-pain principle, and so much trampling of the moral law flows from that, you know?

But the worst thing that can happen to us is not suffering, but mortal sin, and to die in a state of mortal sin is the only true calamity. We who are Christians, and who say we know these things, need to proclaim them by our lives and by our words.

But we have to start with our own hearts. We are not to live by the pleasure-pain principle—seek pleasure and avoid pain. No! Seek love and avoid sin—this is the ethos of the Christian. And because Christ is risen, and assures us of a glorious triumphant future, we can give ourselves to this love and this ethos unreservedly and accept whatever pain and sacrifice it entails on us.

If we don’t do that, the world will go on and on, aborting, euthanizing, oppressing, drugging, fornicating… on and on without anyone to show it anything different. We need to get our act together on this, and learn to live as if what we believe is , you know, really true. For our own sakes, and for the sake of the world which is so very lost right now.