I’ll be the first to put my hand up and admit that I am a sinner, which is why a couple of years ago when an opportunity for me to teach high school seniors came around, I saw it as an opportunity to take time off of purgatory and I jumped at the opportunity. I now have the honor of teaching a small group of seniors. First semester they get me for bioethics and they like to complain. They say it’s not fair that a professional bioethicist is teaching high school students bioethics. I respond by saying, imagine what I feel when I’m used to reading professional journals and all of the sudden, I have to read your term papers. I bet it’s more painful for me then it is for you. So much for this high school teaching job getting me time off purgatory. In the second semester I get these students for apologetics which forces them, perhaps for the first time in their life, to step back and actually see their faith from a new perspective. You see, it is no longer enough just to get the right answer. It is not about putting the right answer down on a test. For once in their life they have to take all of the truths of the faith that they know and find a way to convey it in a manner that is convincing. They have to find a way to present it to others to help them see who Jesus truly is, to fall in love with Him and come into a relationship with Him.
For the first few weeks of this course we spend our time dealing with relativism, the most common belief that there is no truth. It holds that you can have your truth and I’ll have my truth and we will just all coexist, tolerate and get along with each other. Most college students are that way, so I challenge my students to ask why not just tolerate, after all it makes life allot easier. As we investigate this we get allot of different responses. We can show that when you claim there is no truth, you have just made a truth statement and thus you’re not really a relativist. (If you are confused then you know how my students feel) But the final point I make is that it is simply too important for us to agree just to go back to our own corners and agree to disagree about this.
You see, Jesus claims to be the Son of God. Either it’s true or its not and if it is true it is too good and too important for us to pretend that it is not true. Jesus came into the world to suffer and die to save us. There is no middle ground. Either you follow Him or you don’t. The challenge for us as Americans is this requires us to step back and have some humility. It requires us to step back and acknowledge that we can’t save ourselves. That there are things in our lives that we have no control over; most importantly we can’t save our own life.
When I deal with people who are sort of on the edge of this relativistic mindset, I ask them what they enjoy doing the most. Back in high school, I worked in an athletic club and I used to call it the church of the gym on Sunday morning, because when I would show up for work on Sunday morning the gym was packed. I don’t know if they went to church or not. So what is it that you like to do? Where is it that you spend most of your time and most of your energy? Most probably, that is the greatest priority in your life and if that is the greatest priority in your life, in some way it is very easy to make that a form of religion. The problem is whatever those things are they will never make us happy. No matter how much we try to make ourselves happy. No matter how hard to try to find happiness, it never satisfies us.
My ultimate ploy when I deal with relativists is to ask if we can find any common ground and the only common ground we can seem to find is that we all want to be happy; we all want to be fulfilled. We might quibble and disagree about what it means to be fulfilled, but at the core all of us want to be fulfilled. No matter how hard we try we never seem to achieve this. There is always something more or something greater that we can want. That’s the beauty of our faith.
As Christians, we profess that we are made for more than the world can offer us. We believe that God created us out of love and it is only in the supreme love of God that we can truly become who we are meant to be. At our baptism, we were claimed by Christ and were called to be a part of His Body the Church. We were made heirs to the kingdom of heaven. Through no choice of our own, for those of us who were baptized as infants, we became adopted sons and daughters of God and it is only in that supreme love of God that you and I find our ultimate fulfillment. That you and I find ultimate happiness and our true identity.
I think the challenge for us as Americans is that we are wired to believe that we have to earn everything. We don’t like free things. Hard work is the American way. You can pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make something of yourself. But faith, our salvation, our eternal happiness, doesn’t work that way. When we go out and try to create that fulfillment we end up becoming workaholics, addicts, or worse we end up totally depressed. If we are spared those tragedies, we become cynical or just deep down unhappy. For the more we work the more we realize we aren’t fully achieving that fulfillment and that sadness or failure begins to set into our life.
My friends we are gathered here in the Church today. Clearly, we are Christians, we are followers of Jesus Christ, we are trying to do the best we can, but if your faith is anything like mine, we like to have Jesus on our own terms. We like to have Jesus in the passenger seat of our car so if something goes wrong, we can immediately turn the wheel over to Him, but otherwise I want Him to be a quiet passenger while I figure everything else out myself. Friends, that is crazy. To say He is the one who can bring order and meaning to my life, but then to say to Him, I only want it when I get stuck simply doesn’t make sense. The challenge for us is to allow God to control our life. It is time to move over. It’s time to allow Jesus to take control.
Friends, we have enough problems in this world as it is. We don’t need to add anything to it. The challenge is for us to say to Jesus, you are in control. To take one step in surrendering that one thing we want the most control of and to allow Him to bring us fulfillment step by step. For it is only when we realize who we truly are; it is only when we realize that God has chosen us long before we could ever choose Him and that we can only choose Him, because He first choose us that we truly begin to live who we are; the fullness of our humanity and we find true happiness and true fulfillment.