Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fr. George Rutler: A Wider Kind of Insanity

By Father George Rutler

When people “rush” Christmas, they pay an oblique tribute to the Advent mysteries, because they want something to celebrate, and in the darkening days of the year they know that celebration has something to do with light. If only they paid attention to what Christ shows about those mysteries of death, judgment, heaven and hell, they’d have a much better celebration. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled” (John 15:11).

The second mystery of Advent is God’s judgment: His design for the world and how we fit into His plan. We shall be accountable to Him in the “particular judgment” when we die, for what we have done with the gift of life He has given us. This will not be like facing a judge in court. It will be like facing one’s spouse after a long separation and reaching out. There can only be an embrace if there is love. St. John Chrysostom said that in the moment of judgment, Christ will ask only: “How much did you love?” If the temporal world was created out of eternity by God’s love, we can fit into that eternity only if love is the passport.

The essence of divine justice, then, consists in how one reciprocates the love that gives life. “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully” (Proverbs 28:5). That is easier said than done, for how can the Lord’s justice be understood in part, let alone “fully”? And yet, the answer is clear. The Lord’s justice, which is the way He designs the world and all its motions and our participation in it, is beautiful, true, and good, and while we may not easily define beauty, truth and goodness, we know their result: joy.

Insanity is the inability to make right judgment. There is more insanity than we realize. The local police once gave me a special code number to call if I saw anyone in our neighborhood behaving strangely, and I told them that if I obliged them, their telephone would be ringing off the hook. But there is a wider kind of insanity, and it is life lived contrary to God’s will. It is the source of sadness, and nothing is more insane than to be sad while being alive.

There are many reasons for sorrow in “this valley of tears,” but such sorrow is not despair. The cynic may say that the light at the end of the tunnel is an approaching train, but the saints know that the light is Christ Himself. As the judge who is righteous and true, He says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).


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