Spirituality for Today – June 2011 – Volume 15, Issue 11

Pivotal Preference

By Rev. Raymond Petrucci

Somewhere in that twilight world where dreams hold sway, images and scenes, both familiar and benign, conveying insightful messages may appear. Just such an instance occurred not long ago. In his mind's eye, a man saw himself seated in a classroom full of students and heard the teacher give this assignment: "Give your self some time to think. Then I would ask you to write on the pad in front of you the names of people, places, or events that have had a profound influence on your life." Almost immediately, statements of certain family members, friends, and acquaintances came to mind, special times spent in solitude before the beauties of nature also entered into his consciousness. He was amazed at the simplicity and directness of the wisdom that had been imparted to him by these sources; yet, even in their common dress, they had immense influence on the formation of his character and on the course of his life. Like Frost's two paths that diverged in the wood or Shakespeare's tide in the affairs of men, a person is constrained to make a definitive choice – a pivotal preference – that will greatly affect that individual's life.

A photo of a dirt road through a meadow

On that Sabbath in the synagogue in Nazareth when Jesus read from Isaiah to the assembly and told them now, in his person, that prophecy was fulfilled, when John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus as the Lamb of God, when Jesus queried his apostles about who they thought that he was and again later if they were going to leave him, when Jesus was crucified and when Jesus rose, and when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples at Pentecost. These were events in which men and women had to make a pivotal preference in their lives. Decisions were required regarding the identity of Jesus Christ and what that understanding was to mean to their lives.

The passing of centuries has not lessened the importance and has not dulled the poignancy of that decision. The agenda of a secularized culture is to remove any public influence of religion and, if possible, to remove all belief in God. The position may be advanced that the foreseeable future, regarding cultural trends in America, will pit those who are Pro-God against those who are Anti-God. The Anti-God forces are pressing the issue. One beachhead of this offensive is treated in an article by Marco Roth – The Rise of the Neuronovel. He contends that literature is affected by the emergence of neuroscience. In essence, we are living in a "medical-materialistic world" in which all human thought and action is biologically determined. Meaning itself is illusory and irrelevant; the human being is trivialized. With some amusement, Lionel Trilling wrote some decades ago: "A specter haunts our culture – it is that people will eventually be unable to say 'They fell in love and married, let alone understand the language of Romeo and Juliet, but will as a matter of course say 'Their individual libidinal impulses being reciprocal, they activated their individual erotic drives and integrated them within the same frame of reference.'" Before we laugh too loudly, the dramatic societal shifts occurring over the past few years must give any thoughtful person pause. Scripture itself poses the question, "And when the Lord comes, will he find any faith left in the world?"

As long as the vagaries human nature operate, an unequivocally affirmative answer is unable to written. The hopes of advancing the faith lie in the presence of a resurgent Pentecost. For in the midst of that power filled event two millennia ago, those first disciples were faced with an irrevocably life-changing decision. As a nascent Church, they must go forth and reveal to a waiting world what the "Way and the Truth and the Life" meant for all of them. Many would make a total sacrifice in proclaiming the ultimate gift of salvation. All who heard the "Good News" preached to them and the invitation to join the community of faith being born before their eyes were confronted with that pivotal preference that either would or would not enter into their being and change their lives forever. The ages have born witness to their choice.

The revolving year has brought this feast of Pentecost around again and the Holy Spirit descends upon another global population of believers. Once again, they must answer the call. In doing so, they stand on the shoulders of giants and willingly offer their shoulders for the feet of a new People of God.

In an age past, Napoleon Bonaparte observed that he had conquered by brute force, but Jesus Christ had conquered through love and millions stood ready to gladly die for him. In the fiery force of that wind filled with the Holy Spirit, a Church came to life. No matter how often evil and sin appear to have won the field, the Church will prevail. As someone once said, "The Church is an anvil that has worn down many hammers." Undying be the chorus of his faithful calling all to Christ's salvation