I will live forever. Whether that’s good news or bad news is up to me.
I’d say ‘it depends on me,’ but that’s not quite true. What I decide and do matters. But having an unending life in God’s presence isn’t something I achieve.
Today’s Gospel reading, John 3:14–21, got me started. That’s part of our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus. The fourth Sunday of Lent scrutinies Gospel for this year, John 9:1–41, tell the “a man blind from birth” account. It’s got a similar theme.
I’ll be talking about believing, doing and sinning. That last may need explaining.
The way I see it, sin doesn’t mean breaking the rules of a particular culture. It might, but not fitting in isn’t what’s sinful.
I should be loving God and my neighbor, seeing everyone as my neighbor and acting like I believe it. (Matthew 5:43–44, 22:36–40; Mark 12:28–31; Luke 6:31, 10:25–37; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1789)
Knowing I should act and think like love matters is one thing. Following through on that knowledge is another.
If God demanded inhumanly perfect behavior, hope would be limited to delusional folks. That’s not, happily, what the Church says.
That’s where “scrutinies” come in. They’re mainly for the RCIA, Right of Christian Initiation of Adults. I suspect that sort of thing doesn’t hurt as a ‘refresher course’ for any Christian. Scrutinies are a way to look for and heal inner defects, glitches, and sins.
There’s more about scrutinies, and other ‘what we believe’ stuff, in a Lenten parish bulletin from 2012.
The bulletin uses terms like “the elect.”
It’s a Catholic bulletin, so “the elect” doesn’t mean what many American Christians seem to think. It’s not a bunch of holier-than-though hypocrites.
That’s not what it’s supposed to mean, anyway. I’m not convinced that all American Catholics understand what the Church says about that sort of thing.
“The elect” are folks who live with our Lord. (Catechism, 1025)
God knows who “the elect” are. That does not mean some of us are damned no matter what we do. Or ‘saved.’
The Bible’s poetic imagery notwithstanding, God isn’t at some particular place in this universe. God knows who ends up where after this world’s closing ceremony because God is there ‘now.’
God isn’t ‘in’ this universe, and is “here” in every place and every time. God is also where time and space are not. I don’t understand exactly how that works, since I’m not God. (Catechism, 202, 300, 600)
I think predestination is interesting, but has little practical value. That hasn’t kept me from talking about God’s viewpoint, role models and decisions. (October 1, 2017)
It’s my opportunity to opt out of Heaven. It’s a real option. A daft one, I think, but real.
Quick recap. The rules are simple. I should love God and my neighbor. Everyone is my neighbor, so I should love everybody. No exceptions.
It’s simple. Not easy.
When I don’t act like I believe the “love” rule, that’s a sin. It happens. So does forgiveness. But only if I notice that I need it, and use that knowledge constructively.
If I keep that up — I can still opt out of Heaven. It’s not, putting it mildly, my plan.
Today’s Gospel readings are both from John. Their ‘light and darkness’ imagery starts in John 1:1–5. Make that ‘is reintroduced.’ The light-darkness thing starts with Genesis 1:3–4. This is the non-scrutinies Gospel:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
“Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
“And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.
“For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.
“But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
I’m about as sure as I can be that these verses aren’t about street lighting or cats. Light can be a sort of ‘here I am’ point of reference for the Holy Spirit or an image of “blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ.” (Catechism, 697, 1027)
That doesn’t necessarily mean being all ‘sweetness and light.’ And it sure isn’t a mandate for nocturnal arson.
On the other hand, I suppose someone’s been convinced that they’re a ‘torch of God.’ It’s likely enough. Some folks have trouble sorting out their biases, unchanging realities, and that’s another topic. (January 19, 2018; February 1, 2017)
One of these days I’ll most likely talk about folklore, faith and Nietzsche. But not today.
That sort of thing appeals to some folks, unless human nature’s changed considerably. Which doesn’t seem likely.
I could say that. But I won’t.
That doesn’t make sense.
Or I could practice unctuous ‘humility.’
Or I could pluck “whoever believes” out of the text and say that everybody’s saved because God loves us so much. That’d probably appeal to another audience.
None of that makes sense. Not to me. Besides, hypocrisy is a bad idea and I shouldn’t do it. Truthfulness in what I say and how I act is. (Catechism, 2468)
My long-term goal is spending eternity with our Lord.
What I do now makes a difference. ‘Working out my salvation,’ as Philippians 2:12 puts it, is important. But I can’t work or pray my way into Heaven.
I can’t just sit back and “believe” either. Thinking lovely thoughts won’t cut it.
“So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
“Indeed someone might say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.
“You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.”
I figure I’ll do “works” if I take what I believe seriously. And that’s yet another topic. Topics: