“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Saint Gregory of Nyssa
I recently read the homily of Saint Gregory of Nyssa (?-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.

A tough sell

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. (Exodus 5.1-4.)

Christ identified Himself as “I AM” and got an equally cool reception (John 8.58-59).   The crowd wasn’t ready to receive God made Man: The Incarnation! (John1.1&14a)

The Christ who is real

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 Saint 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. Saint 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.”  (See: Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours, 1976, P.1699.)

It’s not that Paul was oblivious to the affairs of life, but his focus was on the final goal which was to be with Christ.  I have heard people (usually agnostics) say some 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.

Heavenly minded people

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.” (Matthew 22.37). 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 neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22.38).  The closer a heavenly minded a person becomes, they will be drawn nearer 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. (See Jeremiah 31.3, John 3.16, Romans 5.8, Ephesians 2.4-5, 1John 3.1.) 

Infectious love & a Comforter

Christ’s love is infectious (John 13.34-35, 15.10 & 12.) and we use Christ’s perfect love as our model. Perfect love is not competitive or self-serving (John 15.13, 1Corinthians 13, Philippians 2.1-8.)  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. (John 14.2-3.)

Those who seek Christ’s perfect love will be hated in this world. Count on it. (John 15.18.) Perfect love enlightens but the world prefers darkness. The world has never valued or comprehended His love.

While we are in this world, Christ promised to send us a Comforter, a Helper—the Holy Spirit (John 14.16, 25, John 15.26, Acts 2.4.)  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 (Romans 8.11. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), No.733, 734.).  We are promised that those who receive Christ and are led by the Spirit of God become Children of God. (John 1.12, Roman 8.14. CCC, No. 742.)

We are fools no more. 

[Ubi Caritas, The Cambridge Singers]

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