Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Monday, June 24, 2013

What Do We Love?

What Do We Love?
          The other day I came across a television show on the topic of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  The host was an evangelical Protestant and his guest was a former Jehovah’s Witness.  It was a show that took calls on the air and one particularly fascinated me.
          A young man called in with some question that I’ve forgotten.  What was interesting to me was the dialog that followed between the host and the caller.  After answering the question, the host asked the young man if he was a Christian, to which he responded, “No.”
          His explanation was that although he suspected Christianity was true, he “really enjoys the sins of the world.”  He went on to explain that he was living unchastely with his girlfriend, and had a particular affinity for alcohol.
          The host then asked him if he ever thought about what might happen after he died.  “Occasionally,” the caller responded, “and to be honest, it terrifies me.”
          I found the call uncharacteristically honest.  Few non-Christians acknowledge that Christianity is, in fact, true.  And even fewer would admit that by intentionally rejecting what they know to be true, eternity becomes a fearful idea. 
          I wondered about the caller.  Surely he was capable of measuring time against eternity.  Does he really think the passing pleasures of the sins to which he is attached outweigh the eternal consequences of his actions?
          The host responded by telling the caller that though living as a Christian is not easy, it results in joys, even in this life, that are far greater than the empty promises sin has to offer. 
In the end, though, it comes down to love.  The caller intellectually understood that Christianity is true; he even intellectually understood the consequences of his refusal of Faith.  But he did not love Jesus; he loved sin.  (God willing, he will not die in that state.)
          It has been said that when we die, we are given what we loved during life.  Frank Sheed, in his masterpiece Theology and Sanity, says, “We are saved or damned according to what we love.  If we love God, we shall ultimately get God: we shall be saved.  If we love self in preference to God, then we shall get self apart from God: we shall be damned.”
          Because man is made for God, the latter scenario, though we would get what we love, causes unending torment and emptiness.  The same is true in this life –the host of the show was right – the difference is that here sin often comes with a pleasure that distracts us from its horror.
          Most of the time we can not convince people to trust us that the Christian life is better than the secularist life.  They can see for themselves that it is harder; it requires a strength of character and a willingness to sacrifice that secularism does not.  And the joys have to be experienced to be fully understood.
          Fear of hell may be a motivating factor for some people.  Jesus Himself was willing to use that – He loves souls and wills them to be saved by whichever means.  Perhaps intellectual honesty is enough to cause some men who come to see that Christianity is true, to follow where it leads them.
          But when it comes down to it, I suspect most souls will be saved by love.  We, Christians, have to show people the love of Christ.  And we have to be bold enough to be sure they know Who is the source of that love.  Many hardened sinners, when they encountered Jesus, fell in love with Him and turned their lives around.  Many still do.  One can not encounter Jesus without offering some response.  And one can not encounter authentic Christianity without offering some response.  It is still love, Divine Love, Christian love, that conquers the world.