Wednesday, October 9, 2013

At This Point, What Difference Does It Make?

Christ’s death discloses the utter reliability of God’s love above all in the light of his resurrection. As the risen one, Christ is the trustworthy witness, deserving of faith (cf. Rev 1:5; Heb 2:17), and a solid support for our faith. "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile", says Saint Paul (1 Cor 15:17). Had the Father’s love not caused Jesus to rise from the dead, had it not been able to restore his body to life, then it would not be a completely reliable love, capable of illuminating also the gloom of death.

When Saint Paul describes his new life in Christ, he speaks of "faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). Clearly, this "faith in the Son of God" means Paul’s faith in Jesus, but it also presumes that Jesus himself is worthy of faith, based not only on his having loved us even unto death but also on his divine sonship. Precisely because Jesus is the Son, because he is absolutely grounded in the Father, he was able to conquer death and make the fullness of life shine forth.

Our culture has lost its sense of God’s tangible presence and activity in our world. We think that God is to be found in the beyond, on another level of reality, far removed from our everyday relationships. But if this were the case, if God could not act in the world, his love would not be truly powerful, truly real, and thus not even true, a love capable of delivering the bliss that it promises. It would make no difference at all whether we believed in him or not. Christians, on the contrary, profess their faith in God’s tangible and powerful love which really does act in history and determines its final destiny: a love that can be encountered, a love fully revealed in Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.
Lumen Fidei 17

Reflection – ‘Tuesdays with Francis’, now on a new day for this week only (in all the disruption of travel, I forgot about it yesterday). I was talking recently to a man of deep faith and prayer who was lamenting somewhat the religious indifferentism of some of his family and loved ones, that what for him was the key question of all of life—God, the meaning of it all, Jesus Christ—was a matter of supreme indifference and irrelevance for them.

It does seem to me that this is what Pope Francis (although honestly I hear Pope Benedict’s typical style loud and clear in this paragraph) is saying here. God is somewhere else, or on some other level of reality, or not really acting in the world, or just a big cryptic question mark that cannot possibly be resolved, encountered, entered into a real relationship with. If I thought that about God, I too would conclude that the God question is an irrelevant distraction from the business of life, and just get on with it.

The Christian faith is that God has come very close to us, has indeed entered right into the deepest stuff of our life—the questions that do exercise every human being who has not descended into utter insensibility. Life, death, pain, joy, love, hatred, family, the past and its successes and failures, the future and its uncertainty—surely every human being with any degree of interiority is concerned with these matters.

It is our belief that God has planted Himself squarely on the ground of His creation called ‘man’, the place of our humanity and its most urgent and universal longings, questions, concerns. And it is Jesus Christ, his life, death, and resurrection, that provide the surest guidance and most beautiful divine answers to all these riddles that have presented themselves to mankind from the beginning.

What is becoming more and more clear to me, though, is that as necessary as a lucid presentation of our beliefs are, as much as we have to find words to explain to people just how it is that Jesus and the testimony of the Gospels makes our humanity shine forth with divine radiance and opens a door in our finite mortal nature to a sharing in the infinite eternal glory of God, words are not enough for this.

We live in a world sated with words, bloated on words, and in which words have too often been reduced to instruments of manipulation and control rather than servants of truth and wisdom. We need, not only words, but witness.

We need love—Christians who will not just talk about the faith but practice it with ever growing generosity and fidelity, who put their skin into the game, who go out from the parish and their own homes into the streets and alley ways, the town centers and the obscure outskirts, to make the love of God poured out in Jesus visible to the world. This is really what Pope Francis is calling all of us to do, or if we are already doing it, to redouble our efforts, to never say ‘Oh, I’m doing enough for God’, but to earnestly ask what more we can do.

It seems to me that the witness of Christian love is the only thing that will move people out of religious indifferentism and spark a renewed hope that maybe there is a way to God in the world, a way out of death and futility into hope and joy. I also believe that the world is heading into truly tough times and, frankly, Christians are going to need to be ready to love generously and take care of people’s material and spiritual needs. Are we ready for that? If not, let’s get praying and earnestly seeking the Lord’s help. And with that… time for this little Christian to go to community prayers!

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