Thursday, January 31, 2013

Apocalypse? Now, Please!


What did Jesus bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? What has he brought? The answer is simple: God. He has brought God. He has brought the God who formerly unveiled his countenance gradually, first to Abraham, then to Moses and the Prophets, and then in the Wisdom Literature—the God who revealed his face only in Israel, even though he was honored among the pagans in various shadowy guises.

It is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the true God whom he has brought to the nations of the earth. He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him.  Now we know the path we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God, and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope and love. It is only because of the hardness of our hearts that we think this too little.

Jesus of Nazareth 1, 44

Reflection – Yesterday we talked about the apocalyptic trends of some historic political movements (Marxism) and some current ones (radical environmentalism and gender politics). So what is Christian apocalyptism, then? After all, it’s our word. If society is not to be reborn in a violent revolution, what is the radical promise of renewal held out by Christianity?

Pope Benedict nails it here. Jesus brings us God. He brings us the truth of our origin, and the truth of our destiny, and the truth of how to get there. Not only does he bring it to us as intellectual knowledge, but he gives us the power to live and act on that knowledge.

He brings us faith, hope, and love—the capacity to know God, to attain God, to be one with God in this world and in the next. I do love his simple sentence: “It is only because of the hardness of our hearts that we think this too little.”

What is this hardness of heart? Well, I don’t know about you, but I personally want what I want. I want gross physical things like plenty of scrumptious food and abundant drink. I want ‘success’ – for me, defined as (now don’t be shocked!) being a best selling author of dozens of books, for you defined in other terms, probably. I want peace, which means that people who annoy me leave me alone, and people I like hang out with me. I want… well, you get the drift.

We want what we want, and all these wants take us far far away from the true center of our being, our innermost hearts. We get caught up in trivialities, like whether we have enough money in the bank or whether or not we are succeeding in our chosen field of endeavour. The world, the flesh, the devil all conspire to pull us out of our hearts into the chasing of temporal goods and will-o-the-wisps of worldly well-being.

All these do not matter; what matters is God and the life God gives us. A great deal of our spiritual life is a matter of getting back into our hearts and actually believing and living as if that were true. And that Jesus actually does give us what our deepest hearts most deeply need – God is with us, truly.

And from that radical satisfaction of our deep desires, we can then go out with wisdom and peace to serve the world, to combat injustice, to alleviate the sufferings of the poor, to restore dignity to those who have lost it, and to proclaim the truth God has given us to the world. We do not try to bring about the apocalypse. On one level, the apocalypse has already happened – God has come and revealed Himself. On another level we await the final revelation of God, and simply strive to live good and upright lives by the help of his grace.

It’s not terribly complicated, although life can get complicated enough sometimes. And it’s not always terribly glamorous, although it really is quite exciting, if you believe it is true.

I think I do believe it to be true—well, at least I'm excited by it! But that’s a choice we all have to make—is God real and has God given Himself to us truly in Jesus, and will He be the one who radically and utterly creates a new heaven and a new earth in His time? Or is all of that… well, not quite true. And so we are left to make our own earth into a rude facsimile of heaven, which generally results in a hell of a mess.

Ours to choose, and ours to live. Take your pick.