The Only “A” You Need Is the “A” in JESUS

The Only “A” You Need Is the “A” in JESUS February 11, 2016

Just a quick post about the readings for today.

The first reading s really personally meaningful t me. I looked at it every day when I was quittng drinking:

I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then,
that you and your descendants may live[.]

And that’s what has happened for me in sobriety: I have more life now. More time. I work more; I pray more. I have more friends and more responsibilities. I have a life that is better spiritually–but also better on paper. The sociological metrics have improved. My health is better, my bank account is… existent, my self-reported happiness would be through the roof if anybody asked me, probably my coat is glossy and my paw-pads are firm.

We hear a lot these days about the way Christian faith can give you more. Attendance at religious services correlates with lower rates of addiction, higher rates of lasting marriage, even, I hear, better sex. (I wouldn’t know, see below for more….) Religion can seem useful. Christian colleges often talk this way when they recruit students: We will prepare you to take on the leadership role in our society that your talents deserve. We will, at the very least, help you get a better job.

The Gospel reading turns this promise on its head.

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

There will be places–maybe many, many places–where your Christian faith will make your life look worse on paper, not better. You’ll feel guilty about it (if I had fewer kids I could give them more of my love and attention–wait, did I just think that? I’m supposed to be grateful!) and you will feel like you’ve let down the people you love, who want you to do well. They want you to have the American dream and instead you’re, like, wondering if you’ll ever have enough money to live in a place where they let you keep cats. You will have to give up things that are good for you by every metric you have been trained to recognize: things that make you happier, make you more stable, make you more normal.

Where are we preparing ourselves and the rising generation for the humiliating losses they will suffer in the name of the Gospel? Are we acting to shelter and console people who make these sacrifices now? Are we able to recognize faith–including our own faith–when it doesn’t visibly improve behavior or job performance? (Sebastian totally brought down the average at that monastery.)

I have in many ways been healed through faith. But in other ways I think my life may look worse, by secular standards, than it would in the alternate realty where I never converted. St Paul says, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied…..” It is only trust in God–in His mercy, in His promises, in Jesus’ resurrection and our own–that can justify my choices, and make them seem something other than absurd.

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