Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 25, 2005
Christ's perfect love enlightens
But to worldly minds, a Christian is a fool
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
I recently read the homily of St. Gregory of Nyssa (d.386) on Ecclesiastes. The essence of his message was that Christ is our head, and wise people keep their eyes upon him. To the world this is foolishness because it does not understand that a living Christ really exists and that he is humanity's final reality.
To worldly understanding, there is no final reality - only individual perceptions of God, or some life force, or no perception of God at all. People who look to a living Christ - the second member of a Triune God - are considered fools to the prevailing secular world.
I am who I am
When God told Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God identified himself as "I am who I am" (Exodus 3:14.) Moses must have felt foolish traipsing in to Pharaoh under the authority of the great I Am to say "Thus says the Lord God of Israel: 'Let my people go, that they may hold a feast in the wilderness.'"
Pharaoh didn't warm to the idea.
Christ identified himself as "I Am" and got an equally cool reception. The crowd wasn't ready to receive God made Man: The Incarnation.
God is who he is, regardless of what the crowds want. The living Christ is real. He is. And this is the Christ that St. Gregory told us to keep in our sight. The world does not understand this: The secular mind thinks St. Gregory's premise is foolish.
"How can you see Christ?" the agnostic asks mockingly. The atheist believes that there was no empty tomb and that our prayers fall into an empty universe. To the worldly mind, the Christian is a fool - the more devout the Christian, the bigger the fool.
It has always been this way. St. Gregory commented: "People are often considered blind and useless when they make the supreme good their aim and give themselves up to the contemplation of God, but Paul made a boast of this and proclaimed himself a fool for Christ's sake. The reason he said, 'We are fools for Christ's sake' was that his mind was free from all earthly preoccupation."
It's not that Paul was oblivious to the affairs of life, but his focus was on the final goal, which is to be with Christ. I have heard people (usually agnostics) say something like this about devout, or seemingly devout Christians: "He's so heavenly minded, he's no earthly good." It may sound clever, but it's not true.
It is the truly heavenly-minded person who prays most fervently, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." He really means it and his actions strive to make it be so. The heavenly-minded person understands that if the divine Good of God's will is reflected in human affairs and society - just as it already exists in heaven - the result will produce an environment ideal for humanity to thrive. And the person who is truly heavenly minded will work for that end.
Jesus said the greatest commandment is to "love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with your mind." If a person really loves God with all their being, they will naturally become heavenly minded. It is a natural outgrowth from this spiritual state that the second great commandment occurs: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." The more heavenly minded a person becomes, the closer they will be drawn to the heart of God.
Inevitably they will find themselves aching with compassion for lost and hurting people because of God's extravagant love for us.
Christ's love is infectious and we use Christ's perfect love as our model. Perfect love is not competitive or self-serving. Seeking perfect love means the world may destroy the seeker, just like it did to Christ. By the world's standards, only fools would pursue or value such a love. Yet Christians are called to seek Christ's perfect love. We are fools for Christ.
Do not dismay at this calling. Earth is not our home, but you can rest in the assurance that Christ promised to give us a home elsewhere.
Those who seek Christ's perfect love will be hated in this world. Count on it. Perfect love enlightens but the world prefers darkness. The world has never valued nor comprehended his love.
While we are in this world, Christ promised to send us a comforter, a helper - the Holy Spirit. This is the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead and who dwells in those who are restored in Christ's perfect love. We are promised that those who receive Christ and are led by the Spirit of God become children of God. We are fools no more.
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