What do we really fear?
One day we will be judged. There’s no getting around that fact. Our whole lives will be laid out for all of creation to see, and God will make a judgment. The result of that judgment will mean either eternal life with Him in Heaven or infinite misery with Satan in Hell.
Oh there is a Hell. Make no mistake about that. It exists as does the devil. We kid ourselves sometimes into rationalizing that surly such a place doesn’t really exist. Such a dark and dreadful place must be strictly a metaphor, right? Any intellectual being with half a wit can’t really believe in Hell where there is a fire that burns but does not consume; where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth; where unimaginable cruelty is the order of the day.
And yet it’s there. It waits for us to choose it or choose God. More accurately it waits for us to choose ourselves or God.
It must be God’s judgment that we fear, right? That’s what makes the most sense. I want to do what God tells me to do because I sure as heck don’t want to wind up in Hell. God’s judgment is something I can have some control over. I’ll follow His rules to the letter. If I simply discipline myself to follow His way I shouldn’t have to worry. Ten Commandments? How hard is that to keep track of? Whew. I’m feeling better already.
But wait a minute. If all I have to do is follow the rules, why did God send me Jesus? I mean if all I have to do is not worship other gods; keep the Sabbath holy; avoid taking God’s name in vain; honor Mom and Dad; don’t kill anyone; don’t steal from anyone; don’t cheat on my wife; and don’t covet my neighbors goods…why do I even need a savior? If I did all of those things, I would be a pretty good person in the eyes of my fellow man.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, I submit to you that it is not God’s judgment that we fear the most but rather His love.
God doesn’t want a bunch of people who know how to follow the law. He wants souls that are so full of His love that even the thought of breaking one of the Ten Commandment is a foreign concept. Imagine living a life where it made you ill to even conceive the notion of breaking one of God’s laws, not because you feared the consequences, but rather because the thought of turning away from God hurt you to your core.
Christ came to give us the path to love God, not with just our intellect, but with our will. He came to give us the grace we need to conform our hearts to His. This is how it was in the beginning with Adam and Eve before the fall. Their hearts were aligned with God’s will. Then they did what seems to be so terribly easy for all of us to do. They chose themselves above God. Oh yes, they had a little help from the devil, but ultimately instead of saying “yes” to God as Mary did; Eve said “no.” And don’t think Adam gets off the hook easy here. After all, he did what a lot of guys do at a crucial moment of decision. He did nothing. He just sat back chewing on a fig and watched it happen. In his inaction he also said “no” to God.
Why do we fear God’s love?
To submit ourselves with great confidence to His holy will requires us to let go of ourselves. And we like ourselves. At least we think we do. We like all of the earthly pleasures; the comforts; the niceties. We like being the only one in charge of our destiny. So to accept all of the love God has to give; all of his infinite mercy; we have to die to ourselves. That’s hard. That’s even a little scary.“Be not afraid.”
That was John Paul II’s battle cry. It has been resonating in my heart these last few weeks as I wonder about so many things. What will happen with my job; my parish; my friends in dire straights; even at times my marriage? And yet if I simply do my best, and turn the rest over to Christ, I experience that sense of peace and any fear I have melts away.
Eucharist is our saving sacrament. It has been said that if Christ revealed himself as He truly is; in all His glory; in all His pure love; we would never feel able or worthy to approach Him. So He humbles Himself for our benefit and comes to us in the ever simple bread and wine just so we can partake of His sacrificial meal He made on our behalf.
If it is God’s judgment you fear. If that’s what keeps you going to mass; well, that’s a start. I challenge you to set aside that fear and open your hearts to the love Christ offers each and every day, especially in the mass.Deus caritas est.