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.


  1. It would be nice if you could provide the link to what you quote and the paragraph it is from. I just by chance had finished reading the whole encyclical this morning and I want to find what you quoted.


    1. I don't give the link, but the paragraph number is there - Spe Salvi 2...

  2. I really like the last two posts about hope. Especially today- where Pope B talks about the transformative power of this virtue. "not informative but performative". Active , alive.
    The most effective preaching comes from those who embody the things they are saying. They are their message.
    Christians need to look like what they are talking about. It is people who communicate primarily, not words or ideas. Authenticity gets across.
    Deep down inside people, what communicates now is basically personal authenticity.
    Each time I read these posts I felt convicted...because I am so lousy at loving people, so fearful most of the time. So i asked: “Is Christ-likeness attainable?” In our own strength it is clearly not attainable but God has given us his Holy Spirit to dwell within us, to change us from within ... God's way to make us like Christ is to fill us with his Spirit.
    This phrase from the Gospel reading Sunday sticks with me and came from the shadow of the clouds covering Peter, John, James and Jesus. "This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to Him"
    The Transfiguration shows us the two sides to Jesus, His divinity as Son Of God and the future human suffering he is to face as Son of Man as he leaves the mountain and sets his eyes resolutely " like flint" on Jerusalem and the cross.
    We see our first glimpse of The Cross and the Resurrection.
    Along the way to the cross, we will see whether the disciples really do listen to Jesus.
    Time and again throughout the Gospels we hear that the disciples had a very difficult time listening to Jesus. Their human condition always gets in the way.
    The same thing applies to us. We have a very difficult time listening to the contradiction of the resurrected Christ and the cross of Christ.
    My prayer is :
    Please God let me keep my eyes focused on you and keep listening to you all my life even if you seem lost in the clouds covering me from time to time.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I agree with you - it's what we're trying (imperfectly!) to do at Madonna House - give authentic witness of a Christ-centred way of life, along with sound teaching...


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