As birthdays go, this young century has reached an age at which it can flex its abilities to think and act reasonably. Its personality already is being formed by the political and social issues emerged and emerging. The twenty-first century will cast humanity into new arenas of discovery, growth, and conflict, testing its mettle against the thorny concerns of a new age. In my opinion, success in facing the challenges of the years ahead will be determined by the strength of the spiritual and moral fiber of the people. All that will be judged to be progress, growth, and enrichment depends on the principles held by the judges. Will the criteria to be met be based on God or gold, people or profit, compassion or consumption? The influence of the best and the worst in human nature waits opportunistically to color these choices.
The Thinker, Auguste Rodin
An unusual source of inspiration sparked the topic of this article: a television commercial. The hook of the advertisement was the call for people to rethink some common notions – strength, beauty, and interaction. Is real strength the massive bulk of a bodybuilder or the perseverance of the human spirit, is beauty mere physical attractiveness or the tenderness shown between a mother and her newborn child, is human interaction a face glued to a computer monitor or a father and son playing basketball in the driveway? I admit that I was startled by the degree of moral sensitivity displayed within the context of such a common and so often disdained vehicle. Can something larger be afoot?
If the saying is correct that nothing can stop an idea whose time has come, perhaps the hour marking the Age of Rethinking has struck. I would like to indulge myself by considering the possibility. For decades, I have watched a rebellious culture discard the principles dominant in my own upbringing and instill for themselves a dizzying array of ill-conceived and unexamined lifestyles. Over time, too many people have found themselves languishing in a squalid pool of disaffection. One cannot miss the irony of a stunned and bloodied multitude crawling home to be bandaged and rescued by those whose values they had rejected. I pray that a process of rethinking may accompany their healing.
Rethinking may involve recapturing what was put aside or encountering what was never known. In either case, for me the only successful end of the journey is finding Christ anew. Like the diminutive Zechaeus who climbed the sycamore tree in order to see Jesus passing, we need to raise ourselves above the crowd to see Christ clearly and to respond wholly and joyfully to his saving grace. Christ's truth instructs our every thought and brings us to a growing sensitivity of the powerful benefits we bear. Our conceptions of so many things grow richer in the presence of belief:
- Life is not a thing to possess, but a gift to share.
- Love is not founded on mutual taking, but on mutual giving.
- Work is not an action to perform, but a talent to contribute.
- Sin is not the mere breaking of a rule, but the willful betrayal of a love.
- Forgiveness is not indiscriminant pardoning, but graceful healing.
- Wealth is not weighed by possession of the costly, but of the valuable.
- Hope is not a wish, but a prayer.
- Death is not a passing away, but a coming forth.
- God is not the unanswerable question, but the ultimate answer.
The thoughtful endeavor of reconstituting the driving forces of one's living aims at a brighter and more satisfying result. The impetus of the ministry of Jesus Christ was to reach out for the sinner. How comforting is that Divine compassion. The element of self-examination – rethinking, if you will – in the light of the teaching of Christ is the way that leads one out of the shadows into the light. The stumbling blindness of self-delusion gives way to the clearer vision of self-understanding. Maintaining our equilibrium in a life presenting both sunlit meadows and dark alleys is no small task. We must hold tightly to the faith and morals that offer us the best chance of reaching the pure love of our heavenly goal. Each stage of our lives offers an opportunity to delve deeper into the mystery of God's guiding hand toward the destiny of our faithfulness. At last, we come to our eternal reward. Just think of it!