Memorial of Saint Bede the Venerable

Lectionary: 349

Realize that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious Blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished Lamb.

The word futile appears occasionally in hospital ministry. Should the patient pursue further therapy for an illness that seems terminal, or should the patient accept palliative care to relieve pain and enhance whatever remains of life? Often the decision makes itself as therapeutic care seems to be futile.
But aren’t we all dying? How do I defend myself from the insinuating fear that my entire life is nothing more than a futile denial of death’s inevitability?
The Red Knight, in Edmund Spencer’s marvelous Faerie Queen, manfully confronted Despair in his cavern, a hole filled with the rotting bones of suicides; and was undone by the nasty old man’s arguments. He reminded the hapless warrior of all the sins he had committed and would commit again, of all the butchery and violence of war, and of the inevitability of judgment and condemnation:

“Think of the deep dungeon, wherein you were lately shut up; how often then did you wish for death! Though by good luck you escaped from there, yet death would prevent any further mischance into which you may happen to fall."
Then Despair went on to speak to the Red Cross Knight of all his sins. He pointed out the many wrong things he had done, and said that he had been so faithless and wicked that there was no hope for him of any mercy or forgiveness. Rather than live longer and add to his sins, it would be better for him to die at once, and put an end to all.
The Knight was greatly moved by this speech, which pierced his heart like a sword. Too well he knew that it was all true.

Just as the Red Knight was about to stab himself his girlfriend Una hauled him out of the dark cave and into sunlight.

Suicide has become an epidemic in the United States. Just when we finally attained the goal of worldwide supremacy; having outlasted the Communists and won the Cold War, we find many of our citizens intentionally killing themselves in overt acts of self-destruction; and millions more destroying themselves day by day with excessive drinking, eating, smoking and self-medicating. We boast that our way of life is the envy of the world even as the world watches in horror our self-destruction.
Saint James saw it a long time ago. Despite our success we have inherited a futile way of life, “handed on by your ancestors.…” If they struggled to make the United States preeminent in war and peace, a cultural and economic empire, we should now be enjoying the fruit of their labor. But we don’t. To our alcoholics, addicts and suicides it hardly seems "worth a bucket of warm spit." 

The Saint also saw the way out of this impasse; Realize that you were ransomed… with the precious Blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished Lamb.
Saint James first asks us to "realize." We must know and ponder the gift -- the ransom -- which was paid for our deliverance. Jesus did not hesitate to "bleed out" for us. Not "for a way of life" but for us. Saint John's gospel emphasizes his pouring out the bodily fluids of breath, water and blood.  He was emptied for us.

If the American way of life is utterly pointless, what has Jesus won for us? We can use the word freedom. In the Spirit of Jesus we freely choose love, engagement, sacrifice for and communion with one another. We recognize the fearful inclination to death in despairing solitude and choose life in communion. 

We choose to show up willingly, freely, readily, wholly in Church, in family, in everything we do. "Here I am!" we say to every situation. 

The American experiment has not yet failed, but it most certainly will if we do not freely, willingly, eagerly, enthusiastically embrace its challenges. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.