At the beginning of his papacy, by Pope Benedict XVI’s 2005 homily for the Mass Imposition of the Pallium and Conferral of The Fisherman’s Ring For the Beginning Of The Petrine Ministry Of the Bishop Of Rome, His Holiness said: “There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ.”
The Pope continued, “Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”
This fundamental truth lies at the heart of human existence. So why do so many people resist surrendering their lives to Christ? The Pope addressed this too:
If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful?
We fear change. We fear losing control of our lives if we surrender to Christ. We fear where He might take us. We are comfortable with what we know and fear what we do not know.
Like the story of the rich young ruler, Jesus might ask us to give up our worldly comforts ? that which gives us security, status or pleasure ? and follow Him. The Bible tells us that Christ is the way, the Truth and the Life. But the way is narrow and Truth demanding.
Bishop Fulton Sheen told us that many people are afraid to make Truth personal, intimate and incarnate because they know it may involve a Golgotha. Indeed it may. The Truth will set you free but not before it breaks your heart.
And yet it is broken hearts that are most pliable and discerning to that “still small voice” and will of God. Proud hearts refuse to kneel or bend, stone hearts cannot understand, feel or weep. God can not use either.
Atheists slam shut and bolt the doors of their lives to any possibility of an encounter with Christ. Many lukewarm believers would rather leave the door of faith slightly ajar than throw it wide open in complete abandon to Christ.
But it is only in that state of complete abandon that the Redeemer reveals the reason for our existence. That is when we discover a surprising irony: In our spiritual surrender and abandon we discover liberation and freedom.
I know it may seem strange that a man confined to an electric wheelchair would write about liberation and freedom. Stranger still, I will tell you that it was because of that decrepit physical state that my spiritual state began to mature.
It was from within the confines of serious disability that a fuller understanding came to me of what liberation and freedom in Christ really means. It took the torments and humiliations associated with neurological dysfunction to smash my insidious Pride and illusions of self-sufficiency. It was a sea of tears that eventually turned my stone heart back to flesh.
We need a broken heart to understand the critical necessity of pure and undefiled religion worthy of our interior being. Christianity that is reduced to academic study is dead. A living Christ awaits entry into human hearts; He does not want understanding, he wants his love for us to be returned. He wants us to love him with complete abandon for that is how He loved us. Jesus calls us to a perfect union of lover and loved. There is nothing more beautiful, for this is why we were created.
At the center of human existence lies a desire to love more perfectly and lastingly than is humanly possible. We are incapable of giving or receiving such perfect love. And so the desire remains unsatisfied and eventually recedes to a dull and remote longing. Encountering the living Christ reawakens the possibility of possessing and giving perfect love. But it cannot be fully given or received without surrendering to Christ with complete abandon.
Suffering can be seen through the lens of faith as serving the goal of perfect love by detaching the sufferer from things of the world that can distract us from seeking God’s perfect love. It is crucial we not get distracted. Christ’s perfect love will reveal to us the reason and purpose for our existence.