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Ride at Your Own Risk

Months ago, I moved into a new parish assignment. My room is on the third floor and although there were stairs, the elevator was so much more inviting. But in the first week, it broke down with me in it! There was a button for emergencies and shamelessly I punched it a number of times calling for help. Soon my brother priests called out to me through a barrier of steel and wood that the repairman was coming, and within an hour I was set free, though a bit shaken from the experience. Had I not been freed, I doubt I could have escaped on my own.

The world does not love Jesus Christ. One does not need to ponder deeply to recognize such is the case. Wars and rumors of war begin as sentiments of self-centeredness take hold. Greed, anger, lust, pride—all the capital sins which find a welcome place in the human heart move us to lash out against one another to promote our personal well-being, often to the detriment of our neighbor’s good. We are a rebellious race, wanting to walk without divine direction or assistance for fear that we would lose freedom of impulse, to do what we want when we want, choosing what appears to be the easy way. Who cares for the stairs when you can ride the elevator? This has always been the human condition since the fall of Adam and Eve: fleeting passion limits the goods we choose.

And yet, Jesus is our limitless truth, the only way to salvation and eternal peace. He is our hero, our divine sponsor, goodness and life itself, who nourishes us with his veritable body and blood sacrificed on the cross and glorified by his resurrection from the dead as he watches over us night and day with the holy angels and saints as guides. Though even now in the full manifestation of his divinity, he remains humble, ancillary, poor and solicitous, turning the other cheek and looking away from our sins hoping the while that we, his brothers and sisters, come to our senses, repentant and resolutely open to enduring the sufferings our crosses justly impose. His love is better than life; the rewards he promises will take an eternity to fully enjoy.

But does the world care about him, our creator, redeemer and sanctifier God? Little, if at all. “Leave us in our sins!” is the cry from high and lowborn alike. Society can’t get away from him quickly enough, lying and destroying anything in its path as it retreats the while from our Lord. The majority of us aren’t asking for a savior, behaving like we can do well enough without one. Meanwhile we are reassigning sexuality given us at birth, destroying fellow humans while still in the womb, proudly scorning any attempt to call back to sanity those living in self-righteous pride, and why? All for the sake of self-adulation and the celebration of temporary whimsical preferences until the next best thing comes along--liberation for the sake of indulgence. If Jesus won’t bring personal and private satisfaction here and now, many if not the majority choose slavery to that which does—calling it independence the while. This is certainly not the freedom our forefathers broke their backs over and sacrificed their lives for, nor the unmoored freedom our parents lovingly worked for to bring us lasting peace and joy. Proverbially, the strong become weak, but with God the weak can again become strong.

As I ponder the meaning and experience of freedom, I consistently see and experience that through Jesus’ self-sacrifice, sin no longer necessarily rules over me. With his grace, I continue to use the “elevators” of earth, trusting they will not become my demise if used cautiously, knowing they could very well become my tomb. Those who ride this life for only their earthly glory have been warned time and gain that ashes and dust is what they sow and will reap. Independence means many things, though now it seems to clearly signify: “Without Management, ride at your own risk.”

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