Here’s a test you will likely fail: Find recent news stories, see the photos of violence, read the words of hate, hear the sounds of chaos, and then try to say, “Isn’t this a wonderful world? Isn’t human life beautiful?”
Without divine help, I can find little lovely about the work of human hands nowadays, especially when those hands are blood-soaked and clenched as fists. Is it not a constant temptation to suspect that whatever God had planned for this world and human life has been defeated? By faith, I know that cannot be true. But still…
In times at least as brutal as ours, Saint Irenaeus, a martyred second-century bishop, said that “the glory of God is a man fully alive.” We are only fully alive in relation to Jesus, Who reveals the fullness of human life lived in response to our Heavenly Father. Failure to be Christlike is failure to be fully human, both in time and eternity.
Can we know what a truly Christlike human life looks like? We can answer that question by turning to history, and in doing so, find some practical lessons.
When the Roman Empire collapsed, morally corrupted, bankrupt, and overrun by barbarians, people thought the world had ended. All that seemed enduring and reliable came crashing down. The light of learning was snuffed out, the rule of law became the law of the jungle, and beauty was replaced by the beast.
Except among Christians. The Christians, unlike the barbarians, did not cannibalize each other; they created art and did not destroy it; they built libraries rather than burned them. Above all, Christians tried to love their neighbor for the love of God. Thus Christians ensured that the truths of the Faith, the life of learning, and all the necessities for a fully human life were preserved and handed on. We are their heirs.
Because Christians proclaimed Jesus Christ, both in season and out of season, faithful until death, even when the world seemed to end with Rome’s fall, neither the light of faith nor the light of reason was snuffed out. Across oceans and centuries, countless generations have been able to live their truly human vocation, fully alive for the glory of God, because Christ has been proclaimed, loved, and imitated. Now it is our turn to make Christ known and loved by the witness of our words and deeds, so that the light will not go out, even as shadows fall around us.
History shows what wherever Christ is not known and loved, humans do not become what God calls them to be. Instead, they debase, abuse and consume one another, both physically and spiritually. Wherever Christ is not known and loved, dignity dies and tyrants are born. An honest look at the past and present confirms this truth: Wherever Christ is not known and loved, human life in this life and in the next is in peril.
Nowadays Christians are commanded to be silent and invisible. We are expected not to notice that the walls are crumbling and that the barbarians are on the move. Torches are being lit again, not to illumine but to burn and to purge. And now Christ calls us to respond to the growing darkness, just as the Christians were called to do at the fall of Rome.
Our call now is to foster a thoroughly and authentically Catholic community. Such a community will keep open the doors of the church and the doors of the library, even when the storms of rage and bigotry beat against them; will ensure the Bread of Life for the soul and that earthly bread can be shared with the hungry; will ensure the Living Waters of Baptism and that water safe to drink can be shared with the thirsty; will ensure that the precious, vulnerable, glorious human soul, mind and body will be given a safe haven. This is our call. What a tragedy, what a scandal, what a horror, for us, our children and the future, if we do not answer the call!
We need to do three things daily: get holy, get smart, and get busy.
We need to get holy in a hurry—through conversion, study, and love.
We need to get smart in a hurry—learn about what is going on in the world, learn what our family and neighbors need, learn how to meet those needs.
We need to get busy in a hurry—act on what we believe, know and hope.
Our constant goal is to proclaim Christ in word and deed. For the love of God and for the love of our neighbor whom Jesus has commanded us to love, we must forget ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. If we do that, then lives will be saved, and souls will be saved and, best of all—God will be glorified.
When I write next, I will speak about writing in times of crisis. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.