The Real World

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from Death on a Friday Afternoon
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus

Really? The real world? What then is that other world of worship, prayer and contemplative exploration into the mystery of Christ's presence, a presence ever elusive and disturbingly near? On the part of the bishop it was perhaps a slip of the tongue, but behind slips of the tongue are slips of the mind and sometimes slips of the soul. It happens among all Christians today, of whatever denomination or persuasion, that there is a great slippage of the soul. It is by this world, this world at the cross, that reality is measured and judged. That other world, the world we call real, is a distant country until we with Christ bring it home to the waiting Father.

We are bringing it home, dragging it all behind us: the deadlines and the duties, the fears of failure and hopes for advancement, the loves unreturned, the plans disappointed, the children we lose, the marriage we cannot mend. And so we come loping along with reality's baggage, returning to the real--the real that we left behind when we left for what we mistook as the real world.

I do not read this book for its magnificent prose--indeed sometimes I get the tug of the motivational speaker as I read some of the passages. This book is important because it offers in language more suitable to someone of my llimited capacity than that of Fr. von Balthasar an explication of why we may indeed hope that all might be saved. Why indeed that this very hope is a foundational Christian hope and why we pray this all the time in our liturgy. That is the hope that most speaks now in a world where seemingly none are saved--where in one way or another every one around us wonders about that ultimate end and what it might mean for them. Or if they do not, then probably they should invest a bit more time thinking about it.

Forgiveness--we receive it as we give it, in the same measure, in the same way. And yet this is not the action of a tit-for-tat score-keeping God (note St. Paul's observation--"God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entursting to us the message of reconciliation"), but rather the effect of a spiritual law that makes us disposed to receive forgiveness as we give it. That is, the offering of forgiveness opens us to the reception of forgiveness. For most of us in our individualistic American consciousness, it is far more difficult to receive a gift freely given than it is to give one. So it is true of the great spiritual gifts. As we give, we are disposed to receive the grace that strengthens the gift. As we give forgiveness, we come to understand what it is, what its nature is and how exactly we are to receive it. Through grace we loose the bonds that hold us apart, isolated, and alone. For in forgiveness there is the recognition of our interrelatedness and the necessity of family with one Father at the head of the table. While we may not pardon nor be reconciled, in forgiveness we do not judge nor hold bound the person who offended us to start. When we forgive we are freed from the harsh judgment that would otherwise bind us. We become free to love again, even if at a cautious distance.

What has that to do with the passage quoted above? Probably nothing at all. But the two thoughts converge and intertwine and support one another and make life both miserable (as I realize how horrendously I fail at what I must be about) and glorious (as I realize that I will always fail when I do not rely upon God's strength to bring me home).

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Excellent post.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 14, 2008 7:37 AM.

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