March 26, 2017

The Gift of Hope and Battle for Life

We live at a time where a great battle for life is being played out. The Christian faith offers a discipline of life by which this battle can be won. This faith teaches that, in fact, this battle is already won - if only we will trust in the One who conquered sin and death. In this, the discipline of the Christian life preserves the hope of humanity and gifts it the gift of a supernatural hope.

Nihilistic forces in our boorish culture are causing many good people to lose hope.  I am not referring to specifically Christian hope in asserting this.  Rather, it is a matter of basic human hope -- the kind of hope that women and men need to have the courage to live.  This kind of hope is not exclusively Christian, but the Christian faith is earnestly implicated in preserving and promoting it.

In a certain sense, life is a battle - a struggle between good and evil, not only outside of ourselves in the world in which we live, but also within. What is invisible is more fierce than what is visible. This interior battle faces one's own wickedness and inadequacy with the confidence that this is not the last word about one's personal existence. What characterizes this natural hope is the at least inchoate conviction that somehow, if we do not compromise ourselves in a self-contradiction, what is good and true about us may in the end prevail.  Even when very painful and difficult, such hope sees that the effort to live a worthy life is worth it.

To protect the integrity of this important human hope, Christianity denounces false hopes. For example, it does not provide a firm basis for hope to believe oneself no more than a cog in the wheel of societal progress. Yet many do.  The world of Hegelian idealism may subordinate everything, even God, to an unfolding dialectic, but it cannot raise the heart above itself.  Such a mentality hides under a bandage (but does not heal) the deep misery that we must confront in life.

Although useful to some limited extent, no purely human program - whether sociological or psychological -- sufficiently deals with the pain that aches in our depths. Alcohol and pharmaceuticals can only dull it for a time. None of this provides the solid ground on which to walk through the misery that would otherwise drown out our existence. This is why a reason for our hope must be found beyond the programs, agendas, methods and techniques offered (and marketed) by the clever of the world.

To stand firm under fire, we need a good reason for the hope we have inside - a truth by which to live. We need help from Someone whose life is above our own if we are to learn to ponder how astonishing and un-repeatable the personal drama of one's own life actually is. To find this Someone, all that must be done is to cry out in prayer with faith. For this Someone is not remote.  He has come for us. He has entered into the pain of humanity and has taken into His own heart; and has carried it with Him to the Cross.

Christ Crucified has dared to enter into our own hearts because His compassion moved Him to suffer with us through it all. The discipline of the Christian life is about learning to walk with Him. To take on this discipline is to know the Mighty God's creative and healing power. To be a disciple is to humbly attend to the Eternal Word as He addresses the most painful heartbreaks and disappointments. The discipline of the Christian faith involves the prayerful examination of our lives before the Savior's glance of love. Such a way of life is a life in complete communion with Him.

With one word, the Word restores a disciple's dignity; with one touch, the Hand of God lifts His followers on high. The Risen Lord provides the solid ground for those who would pick up their Cross and follow HIm.  The Bread of Life Himself nourishes us for this journey. The Eternal Son awaits us, ready to welcome us into the Father's House.