Mark 16:15

Aristotle and Plato in “The School of Athens,” by Raphael, c. 1511.

Re-post 2013

Give Me Jesus

As I have been of late studying early Christianity and its meteoric rise in the ancient world, what stands out — as sociologist Rodney Stark points out — is that its rapid expansion resulted from a courageous, consistent and person-to-person witness of faith in the Risen Jesus. The gradual conversion of the Empire prior to the Edict of Milan, you might say in sum, was effected by the word of mouth and shedding of blood.

And Christians brought with them a very specific worldview, and ethos that flowed from a Jewish heritage read through the Gospel of Jesus. A second century Christian author described this remarkable and radically new ethos:

…there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.

They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

Reason informed by faith

As I thought about this, I realized how important it is to affirm that many of the moral ideals Christians are presently fighting to defend as true (e.g. monogamous and heterosexual marriage, sexual acts as marital acts, abortion as homicide) have a history, and are intimately linked to the distinctive theological worldview that emerged from a specifically Christian history.  Early Christians largely operated under the assumption that the best way to convince others of their moral beliefs was to expose them to the life-giving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and invite them to receive the Holy Spirit in a community of faith laden with grace-filled sacraments and divinely revealed teaching. And while reasoned arguments in support of the truth of their claims could help pave the way for others to receive this Gift, there could be, for Christians, no substitute for the the reception of Gift itself; for to receive the Gift was to receive both the whole truth (divine revelation) and the means to live the truth (the gift of grace).

I guess what I’m saying is that while the use of persuasive reasoned arguments about the natural moral law in regard to marriage, sexuality and abortion are an absolutely Catholic approach to cultivating a culture of life and a civilization of love, we can’t rely on this approach to the marginalization or exclusion of what is the Church’s most fundamental mission: to evangelize. Living faith, Christians affirm, not only clarifies, affirms and grounds in us what is true and good, but gives us the inner resources to do what we know is true and good. Or as Ezekiel 36:26-27 would have God say it:

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them.

Let me offer an example of the importance of this “distinctive,” the gift of faith. While she was suffering terribly at the end of her life, St. Therese made this astonishing admission: “Yes! What a grace it is to have faith! If I had not any faith, I would have committed suicide without an instant’s hesitation.” Her caretaker, after Therese’s death, said:

Three days before she died, I saw her in such pain that I was heartbroken. When I drew near to her bed, she tried to smile, and, in a strangled sort of voice, she said: “If I didn’t have faith, I could never bear such suffering. I am surprised that there aren’t more suicides among atheists.”

Let us embrace our faith, give thanks for our faith, and share with others around us the hope that is within us: Jesus Christ, dead and risen! Alleluia!

9 comments on “Mark 16:15

  1. n.o.s. says:

    ” I guess what I’m saying.” Ha ha ha ha ha ha ………… Thomas ha ha ha ha ha ha . You guessing at any thing is something I want to see .

    P.S. all right now sir which shell is the pea under.
    P.S.S. Took E. J and James to see my friend Jerry the other day James cried. E.J. Sat on one side of the bed and stroked Jerrys arm oh what wonderful sons GOD has given me.the two ladies that are with him 12 hours each every day are two angels of mercy, miss Sharon and miss Delores, so filled with the HOLY SPIRIT.thank you dr.kneel for reminding me of the gift from GOD who is St. Therese and I’m sure Jerry would thank you and all of the friends to this post who lift those in need up. P.B.W.Y. always.

    • NOS, thank you for walking all of us to Jerry’s bedside to pray with him through you. Your sons — I cannot imagine James now! What a powerful story of your 2 sons — the apple doesn’t fall far from the cart. We all keep praying for Jerry. A.W.Y.S.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for choosing to repost this article today. I think it is crucial that as Catholics we seek to be educated on the Church’s reasoning behind the moral positions She holds for our own good and the common good, and if we look at all that the Church teaches in terms of moral living, it all comes down to showing us the right response -the good, the beautiful, the true response- to the overwhelming encounter with God’s infinite, merciful, nourishing, restorative, reparative, unifying, redemptive, utterly transformative love. When our lives don’t express the effects of that encounter with love then maybe we shouldn’t be in the business of trying to argue morality – as an argument won does not equal a heart changed and a life transformed.
    How different these debates would look if we saw our “opponents” as beloved creations of God, who the Father desperately wants to welcome into his arms, and that our job is to love them back to him. Once they enter into his banquet and see how beautiful is the Father and his love for them, they will too want to live for him and change their ways, then we can help them to understand the whys of what we have been taught.

    God bless you mightily!

    • Jennifer says:

      p.s. lest anyone think otherwise, my reply is first and foremost a reminder to myself as I forget daily to love others. God have mercy on me.

    • One cannot help but think, “imagine if..” when one thinks of the core elements of the Christian faith being lived consistently by the billions of Christians in the world. What power to effect good and overcome evil. God bless you mightily!

  3. Fr Josh Johnson says:

    Yes! This is so good. A great reminder to look at the witness of the saints before us and how they cooperated with our Lord’s grace to transform hearts, cultures, and the world!

  4. n.o.s. says:

    Ahh wow another small scale thought from the “J” meister. Jennifer when you eventually decide to write your book please consider posting your rough draft notes as your witness to this s inner is always so powerful AS I HAVE LOVED YOU the SON tells us. Thanks Teach.

  5. Lori Mountain says:

    Wow!! This hits the target. Thank you!!

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