Sunday, February 17, 2013

Real Life, Real People, Real Love

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).

The name of Jesus is a prayer. When I confess that Jesus is Lord, I am doing so much more than just saying words. I am expressing my commitment in a perceptible way. I am bearing witness. I am lifting up my soul in prayer to the One for whom everything has been created, the One who was born and died and rose from the dead, the One who established Himself as the center and the fulfillment of history, the One who draws all things to Himself, the One who has entered my life, my history, and has proven that the meaning of my life is to belong to Him.

I confess that Jesus is Lord.

He is my Lord. I exist for Him, in a world that exists for Him, this God who became a man and poured Himself out in love on the cross. He pours Himself out in love for me in this moment; He begs me to open my heart and let Him love me in this moment, so that He might fill me with His Spirit and free me to love Him and be transformed in His likeness and cry out "Abba!" This is life. God. Love.

My mouth. This is the reason my mouth was created: to say, "Jesus is Lord!"

For me, this is not an abstract idea. Jesus has grabbed hold of my real life. Every day I see faces that remind me that this is a fact. My confession of faith is not made in solitude. I belong to the Church, and this "Church" is not a faction, not an organization defined by some agenda. It is "living stones," it is real people.

Even as I type these words, I am not alone. The Church is in my living room. Here are six people who remind me that Jesus is Lord of this moment. We are a family. Sometimes we drive one another crazy and get frustrated. We are always falling short, and failing one another. Still, He is Lord, and He is changing us through this life. He is shaping our lives right now, in this moment. Here is this woman and these children (watching a hockey game, doing homework, driving a toy truck on the arm of my chair); without Jesus this moment would have been impossible. Without Jesus, we would not be together.
This moment is entirely the fruit of a history of belonging to Him.

The commitment of marriage and family does not have its source in my own generosity. I know very concretely that without Jesus, I would never find the courage to share my life with another human person, much less to surrender myself with this other person to the creative freedom of God so that new human persons might come into the world and experience love through us.

Without Jesus, this doesn't happen.

I am certain that those who aspire to live marriage and family in a true way are sustained by the grace of Jesus Christ. If they do not know His name explicitly, still it is His grace that engenders within their hearts the seeking, the hope, the longing to see the face that makes love possible. In that longing, that poverty, He draws them and sustains them and shapes their hearts and their voices so that one day they will sing the glory of His name.

I am certain of this. I know that without Jesus, my own life is impossible.

Without Jesus; without the Church and her enduring witness; without the supernatural strength of the sacraments; without the people (beginning with my own mother and father, my brother, and others--you know who you are) who confessed with their mouths and lived with their lives this faith, and who communicated to me a love of God that is greater than all my fears...without this reality I have no life.

I have seen life. I have seen with my own eyes that Jesus makes it possible to live a marriage and not be afraid of life, of children, of the mystery of children who need love that is greater than anyone can give.

I have lived with these people, who can give themselves in little gestures, who witness the love of God in their  goodness and their confusion, who struggle and endure and suffer and find joy. I know these people who are so inadequate and broken in themselves, but who are not defeated by their own failures; these people who find forgiveness and extend forgiveness and carry on with a hope that is greater than their weakness.

And I have known certain real people who love Jesus with a vividness that sacrifices everything in an exclusive commitment to Him, a commitment to speak His name to all, to go anywhere, to pour themselves out for persons they have never met....

Without the experience of such a love for Jesus and for me, my life would be nothing. I would have my solitude, my sickness, and the prison of my own thoughts. And a deep desperate cry to an unknown Someone: "please, come!"

Jesus is Lord.

I have seen this. And it is real life. I tell fun stories about my family, and we do have a lot of fun, but family life is hard. Its mysterious and overwhelming. Its messy. Its exhausting. Its a human family, and Jesus doesn't do magic. He doesn't make our humanity disappear; He embraces it and transforms it in His patience, in time.

The name of Jesus is not magic. There are many people who talk about Jesus and do stupid things. Even crazy things. There is nothing surprising about human failure.

The miracle is this life which amazes us, which makes us go forward, stumbling, falling, forgetting, being sorry, being forgiven, stumbling and going forward, convinced that He is with us and that His love is greater than everything.

I have seen a life that is only possible because He has conquered fear, He has conquered death. He has really, truly been raised from the dead, in transformed and glorified flesh and blood. I believe this in my heart. It is His flesh and blood and His glory that makes my own life. It conquers my weakness, renews my spirit, sustains my hope.