There is a longing in us all to know the reason for our existence. This longing drives us human beings to search far and wide. We search for answers, for meaning, for purpose. Yet we often get the answer wrong.
Think of all the religions, the cults, the wild assortment of groups that peddle wrong answers to human beings. Think of those deceived by Hitler. The lies of communism that led to the spiritual slavery and the death of millions. The hedonism and consumerism sold every day by our media-driven culture.
It is sad but true - human beings are easily lost, easily deceived, easily sold on false answers about the meaning of life. Without Jesus, we are like sheep without a shepherd.
Jesus is not just another answer to the meaning of life. He is not offering one way among others. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the answer for all people, the Lord of all who will judge the living and the dead.
'The Lord will reign forever.'
The trouble is we often have little experience of Jesus in our daily life. We have allowed him to seem like just one path among many. This is because we are often timid in responding to his call. We all too often excuse away the demands of the Gospel.
How easy it is to compromise! How easy it is to become lukewarm and sterile in our Christian life! Christians are called to be a torch, a living flame of divine love.
This society offers us so many substitutes for the truth and life of Jesus. It offers us pleasure in place of sacrifice, distraction instead of prayer, entertainment instead of purpose and mission.
I am sure many can see the state of things. Isn't it obvious? We are being seduced. Many of us are like the proverbial frog - slowly being warmed up until we are passively boiled to death.
But something is happening. There is a stirring deep within us all. A stirring in the heart of the Church. A stirring to cast off our compromises and live the Gospel in new and uncompromising ways.
This stirring is given voice by Pope Francis who calls the Church to a new beginning. He calls us to place the cross front and centre.
"When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord."
The cross calls each of us to a new way of life. A life of deep surrender to the will of God. A life that contradicts the lies of this present world. This is the path of the true disciple of Jesus.
We know it is not easy. Yes, it is a challenge to stand and contradict the dark and growing tide of the culture of death. But it must be done. We must ask the Lord to turn us into the people he created us to be. We must allow the Spirit of Jesus to call us into the deep waters of ongoing conversion.
In this week's Gospel, Jesus speaks of a great chasm between those who live the Gospel and those who do not. He tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus. These words of Scripture challenge us all:
"Between you and us a great chasm has been fixed" (Luke 16.19-31). In other words, there is an eternal divide between simply professing the Gospel with our lips and living it in our daily lives.
The fate of the rich man is God's compassionate warning to us. The rich man lost his soul in the spiritual haze created by riches and unrestrained pleasures of life.
This Gospel story stands as a challenge. We cannot bury ourselves in pleasure and forget the demands of the Gospel.
Again Pope Francis sums up well the challenge of the Gospel:
"How can we live as a poor Church, for the poor? How does the suffering of others question our faith? How can we all . . . offer a concrete and effective contribution to the Church and society to address this crisis that touches the public ethics? This is important."
It is time for the whole Church to search her collective heart. To gaze and meditate upon the cross and allow the infinite love of Jesus to penetrate us all. This is the loving challenge of Jesus being given to us through the Gospel and the pope. It is time for us all to respond generously.
"Ask Jesus what he wants . . . and be brave!" (Pope Francis)
Lord Jesus, teach us to hear your voice and be brave in our response.