Spirituality for Today – July 2009 – Volume 13, Issue 12

The Optimism of Christ

By Msgr. Frank C. Wissel, D.Min.

I am thinking of a story which I doubt is true, but in a men's club in London in the early part of the eighteenth century, there was a member named Joe who was an avowed atheist.

A photo of a sunset

He not only didn't believe in God but he was anti-Christian. One day someone wrote a poem and posted it on the club bulletin board.

It read as follows:

"We have heard in language, highly spiced, That Joe does not believe in Christ;

But what we all would like to know, Is whether Christ believes in Joe."

If I were a member of that club, I would address the one who wrote the poem that unequivocally that Jesus loves Joe but Joe didn't love himself. That could also be Helen, John, Msgr. Wissel, and anyone else. It could be you.

One of the most fascinating things about the New Testament is the amazing faith that Christ had in all sorts of people.

There is a Gospel passage in which Jesus meets for the first time with a man named Simon.

They were introduced by Simon's brother, Andrew. Almost immediately there was a bond between them. Jesus looked into this new-found friend and said: "You are Simon, son of John. Your name shall be Cephas" (which means Peter, the rock).

That was probably the highest vote of confidence that Simon ever received. It is doubtful that anyone thought of him as a rock. They may have considered him hard-headed, but that was not what Jesus had in mind.

The Lord saw in him a strength, solid character, strong faith, and the moral courage that would become the very foundation of His Church.

Christ believed in Simon more than Simon believed in himself.

Follow Jesus throughout the years of His ministry, and you will see that same attitude towards all sorts of people: the adulterous woman, a dishonest tax collector named Zacchaeus, and the Samaritan woman who had failed in marriage five times.

One of the last things Jesus did, just before he died, was express his confidence in a condemned felon, who was dying on the cross next to his own.

None of this suggests that Jesus, for one moment was naïve about human nature. It simply means that he looked at people in terms of their possibilities. You and I very often do this with children.

We see a little boy or a little girl as a bundle of undeveloped possibilities. Our minds thrill with the thoughts of what he or she might become, if given the right opportunity.

One difference between Jesus and us is that He took that attitude towards all people not just children but adults as well.

He talked one night with a man named Nicodemus. He was a Pharisee. He was very strong in his Jewish faith and one might even believe the adage, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."

But Jesus did not agree. He saw the capacity for that old man being born again and to start life anew.

One might assume that this was simply a matter of kindness on part of the Lord.

Maybe it was because He saw the goodness in people. But that would be false, because Jesus' attitude would have been based on sentiment. He based His observation on insight.

When Jesus gave Simon the name Cephas (rock), he was not being generous; he was being factual. Peter's real character came forward. Many times people bring the best out of other people.

Jesus was an expert in the realm of human nature.

He believed that every sinner has the potential of being a saint.

The entire New Testament could not have endured all these centuries if it had not been based on unshakeable facts.

One of the facts is that real people with real problems have been changed through a relationship with Jesus.

That can happen to you and me at any time for the asking with just a pinch of faith.

When it comes to human nature, Christ was and is an indestructible optimist. He believes the best about every person.

Let us hope and pray that our faith will grow and be an example and an inspiration to others as well as other to us.

Let us imitate Christ with His optimism.