Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
March 28, 2005
Good Friday: Life beyond the self
Good Friday is the ultimate protest against the Me-First society. On Good Friday, we see the culmination of Jesus' words: "God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that everyone who has faith in him may not die but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Today, we give our sons and daughters in abortion, but not out of sacrifice. The reasons for abortion are varied. But they boil down to one thing - "My comfort (whether material or psychological) is more important than your life."
To be sure, few who support abortion see it in those terms. There is massive propaganda and an ideology of individual autonomy and freedom of choice that cloaks the violence against unborn children.
For Jesus, it was different. "Let the children come unto me," he said, thus giving equality to the child. It is an equality to which we pay regular lip service. But then we betray that equality by carefully limiting the size of our families and taking other steps to keep those who do manage to get born from holding us back in our careers and other aspirations.
Now, in Canada, we are going further. We are creating the fiction of same-sex "marriage" where the inherent character of marriage as oriented to procreation is abolished.
In marriage with children there is sacrifice. That is one reason why Catholics see it as a sacrament. It is a mirror of Christ's saving sacrifice on Calvary.
We are beguiled with movie images of marriage as the ultimate romance. When it doesn't turn out that way, when the moments of romance are fewer than the moments of disagreement and drudgery, we run from the hard reality into the isolation of divorce.
We want the "good life": the life of perfect health, living in warm climes, watching the sunset over the ocean with a pina colada in hand. Heavens, don't let rambunctious children spoil the picture!
What does it mean to us when we hear Jesus' words, "Take up your cross and follow me"? Does it compute? Is this maybe the reason why the rate of church attendance has fallen as our material desires and ideology of "freedom" have expanded?
Rugged individualism runs rampant. Like the individualism of the Wild West, we turn to violence when anything threatens to undermine the Me First imperative. See that violence in abortion. But also see it in governments' waging war to keep control of oil resources and major companies running sweatshops in poorer nations so we can have low-priced goods and higher profits here.
One is the individualism of the political left, the other of the right. The one pursues personal "fulfillment," the other the Almighty Dollar. But ultimately, they are the same thing, growing out of the same root.
Money gives us freedom, but does not dispose us to use freedom responsibly. Perhaps it is the opposite. People need a certain level of material security to live with dignity, but it seems that if the level of income rises much higher, they again begin to live without dignity.
The gospel of self-gratification has left us with a spiritually empty culture.
Lent is important because it reminds us that full human dignity can only be achieved when we fast, pray and give alms. Those practices are not a magic road to happiness, but, performed in the right spirit, they help us keep our priorities straight.
Nor should we restrict them to 40 days of the year. We need constant conversion. In a sea of pleasure-seeking and money-making, we need to be constantly kept awake to what is really important.
When we take Jesus' sacrifice seriously, we will enter into something holy and good. If a whole society was to focus on the centrality of Christ's sacrifice, we would not have abortion, same-sex "marriage," assisted suicide, runaway environmental problems or systematic economic exploitation of workers.
The problem with Christianity is not that it has been tried and found wanting. Rather, it has not been tried.
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