Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
October 7, 2002
Jesus wants heroes, not wimps
One chapter of the second volume of Ted Byfield's new history of Christianity begins, "Because it has never been easy and almost never safe, to be an outspoken defender of their faith, many Christians hunker down in quiet anonymity. They live unobtrusively, inconspicuously; they leave no mark."
This is too true. With more than a billion and a half Christians in the world, Christian ideals would be a profound influence humanizing our world if all Christians took them seriously.
The fact Christian ideals have had a major effect on civilization's destiny when so few Christians are willing to live by them is witness to how wonderful the world would be if we all strove to be canonizable saints.
We suffer from mediocrity, yet Jesus calls us to heroism. The heroism of martyrdom, yes, but also the heroism of 100 per cent dedication to the Gospel in the events of daily life.
Much has been made of the closeness between Pope John Paul and Opus Dei. This has often been seen in terms of some conservative putsch to roll back the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
The deeper truth is that there were probably no two Catholics in the 20th century more dedicated to the heroic nature of the Christian life than Pope John Paul and Opus Dei's founder, Msgr Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer. So it was only fitting that the current pontiff should have the honour of canonizing Blessed Escriva on Oct. 6.
Escriva's written works are not theological masterworks. But they are an unrelenting call to live the daily Christian life as closely aligned with the love and will of Jesus Christ as possible.
Escriva began his most famous work, The Way, by writing: "Don't let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail.
"Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love."
This is really the same call that came from Vatican II 30 years ago for the laity to permeate society with the spirit of the Gospel.
Often we tend to see Vatican II in terms of how it affected the liturgy. But if we would see its revolutionary universal call to holiness as the centre of the baptismal call to all Christians, we would be on the road, not only to holiness, but also peace and social justice.
In his 1984 apostolic letter, Reconciliation and Penance, Pope John Paul says too often we blame individual's sins on external factors, such as social structures and other people.
To do so is to deny the freedom which is at the core of human dignity (n. 16). That dignity can be seen more positively in the great drama of human life.
We face a choice between good and evil and our eternal salvation depends on what choice we make.
Christians cannot be true to their vocation as Christians by settling for mediocrity. We are called to a life with constant challenges - challenges, which if faced with courage, will leave a mark on the world around us.
At the time of his inauguration as president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela spoke of the fears that we all face: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
"Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. . . . We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
"It's not just in some of us - it's in everyone."
Blessed Escriva knew that we are being asked for very little compared to what we have been given. But we must constantly strive to break free from the selfishness and worldly habits that make us so small.
The world can be redeemed by our heroism carried out in unity with Christ.
Josemaria Escriva will certainly be remembered as one of the great saints of the 20th century. But a greater accomplishment still will be the day most Christians take seriously his call to be heroes in every act of daily life.
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