Tuesday, January 06, 2009

In Order to Change the World *We* Need to be Better Christians

I've been thinking about this a lot lately in the context of wanting to build a culture of life and thus change the world. I had a lovely chat the other night with a friend of mine (a recent Christendom grad) about politics and life issues and all and the conclusion of the discussion (as I understood it) was basically that if all well-meaning Catholics worked on being better Catholics and being more involved and such (with an emphasis on charity - although the general point could perhaps be better described as "engaging the culture"), we could really make a big difference. The Catholic Church's balance of faith and reason is in the perfect position to provide a bridge between the ideological (and theological) extremes present in our country. Here's a sermon (from today's Office of Readings) that seems to speak across the centuries to that point in a very hard-hitting and challenging way about the necessity of that involvement. This is from a homily on the Acts of the Apostles by Saint John Chrysostom (347-407):
There is nothing colder than a Christian who does not seek to save others.

You cannot plead poverty here; the widow putting in her two small coins will be your accuser. Peter said, Silver and gold I have not. Paul was so poor that he was often hungry and went without necessary food.

You cannot plead humble birth, for they were humbly born, of humble stock. You cannot offer the excuse of lack of education, for they were uneducated. You cannot plead ill-health, for Timothy also had poor health, with frequent illnesses.

Each one can help his neighbor, if only he is willing to do what is in his power. Look at the trees that do not bear fruit: have you not noticed how strong and fine they are, upstanding, smooth, and tall? If we had a garden, we would much prefer trees with fruit—pomegranates and olives—to trees that are for pleasure, not for utility, and any utility these have is small.

Such are those men who think only of their own concerns. In fact, they are even worse: the trees are at least useful for building or for protection, whereas the selfish are fit only for punishment. Such were those foolish virgins who were chaste, comely, and self-controlled, but did nothing for anyone. So they are consumed in the fire. Such are those men who refuse to give Christ food.

Notice that none of them is accused of personal sins. They are not accused of committing fornication or perjury or any such sin at all: only of not helping anybody else. The man who buried the talent was like this. His life was blameless, but he was of no service to others.

How can such a person be a Christian? Tell me, if yeast did not make the whole mass like itself, is it really yeast? Again, if perfume failed to pervade all around it with its fragrance, would we call it perfume?

Do not say, “It is impossible for me to influence others.” If you are a Christian, it is impossible for this not to happen. Things found in nature cannot be denied; so it is here, for it is a question of the nature of a Christian.

Do not insult God. If you say that the sun cannot shine, you have insulted Him. If you say that a Christian cannot help others, you have insulted God and called Him a liar. It is easier for the sun not to give warmth or shine than for the Christian not to shed his light. It is easier for light to be darkness than for this to happen.

Do not say then that it is impossible. The opposite is impossible. Do not insult God. If we have put our affairs in order, these things will certainly come to be and will follow as a natural consequence. The light of a Christian cannot escape notice. So bright a lamp cannot be hidden.

image from Wikipedia


nutmeg said...

This is beautiful... I have printed it out and it's now hanging on the fridge for the adults in my house to ponder.

Love2Learn Mom said...

I'm glad you like it. I was just floored by it when I read it this morning!

Meredith said...

Beuatifully said Alicia!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Theresa said...

Powerful stuff.

Kristen said...

What an inspiration! Beautiful, Alicia.