Sunday, February 26, 2017

Christianity is not an "Escape"

We can't avoid the big questions. They are fundamental to who we are. We are always "asking them," at least concretely, through the ardor of our desire for life and the tenacity with which we hold onto it and the frustration we so often endure when our expectations are thwarted.

The big questions. We can't escape them: "What is the purpose of all of these things I want and why am I afraid to lose them? Why does life seem to have this 'meaning' that keeps asserting itself?" 

"What do I need to be happy?" "How can we find justice, peace, solidarity, beauty?" "Why do we even care about all these things?" 

"What is this longing inside me that aches and is never satisfied?" 

"Why must we die, and why must we endure the death of those we love, this dark abyss of separation from them?"

Even if we are convinced that we "know the answers," we are always struggling with questions like these in our hearts even if not in our conscious thoughts. We are always searching within the horizon of these questions, always struggling with the circumstances in life because of them. But we can't find satisfying "answers" that make the questions go away. 

The more we live and learn, the more we come to realize that these questions move us toward an ultimate Mystery -- a definitive "answer" that we cannot give to ourselves but that we hope to receive, a promise that sustains our conviction that life is good, that it's worth living and hoping even when everything seems impossible.

As Christians, we think we know the meaning of life and death. We think we know the answers to the great human questions. And indeed the Gospel is the revelation of the truth. This is a fundamental and inestimable grace that gives light to our path. But we hold the truth in faith, in a certain "obscurity," through a glass darkly even when our attention and vigilance are at their height. And we are also weak, so easily forgetful, distracted, confused. 

We Christians can't expect our collection of thoughts, or the level at which we understand things, to be sufficient to end the essential "restlessness" of our human journey in this life. Our minds do not somehow provide us with an escape from the drama of human existence, from grappling with the mystery of our own destiny, or enduring the gut-wrenching suffering of our limits and failures, of the twisted strangeness of sin and the inescapable reality of death.

Of course, our faith reassures us that there is eternal life, that death has been conquered. There is comfort here; indeed, when life seems incomprehensible we are reminded that our trust in Jesus must be radical and total. We must trust, because it is through love that faith holds on in the most obscure places, the inexpressibly personal places where ideas can seem so cold.

Christianity is not "cheap and easy answers to the fundamental questions of life." Christianity is not an escape from the fragility of our own humanity. Christianity is a Person who loves us and endures our vulnerability to the very end, transforming it from within. The "answer" is the way He embraces each of our lives. We are changed by living with Him. We are not changed by a satisfying explanation. We are changed by Him.

There is no way to "cheat" the drama of life with its challenges, its choices, and its call to endurance. We must live through everything, trusting in Jesus Christ. He is with us, through everything, and He is the source of our strength, especially when we feel powerless and He seems somehow "distant" or even absent. His love draws us infinitely beyond ourselves, toward the fulfillment for which we have been created. He not only promises this fulfillment which we cannot imagine, but He walks with us every step of the way. He is the Way, and He takes upon Himself all the darkest and most desperate and most remote human places.

We must trust in Him, always.

We may not even feel any trust, but still we must trust, we must beg to be able to trust, we must continue to hope even if it all seems wild and terrible or full of anguish and emptiness. Because He Himself really endures with us all the tears, the separations, the crushed hearts, the weight of the pain. Really.

He has made it all His own, because He loves us.