The more I learn about the human body, the more impressed I am by how it is able to operate without us even thinking about it. Our bodies have a unique ability to preserve our lives. When we place our hand on a hot stove, our brain quickly sends a signal through our body and before we can rationalize it, we instinctively pull our hand off the stove. When we perceive a danger, without thinking about it, our blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate increase, preparing us either to fight the danger or run away? Even more impressive is how the human body responds to terrible trauma. First, the body shuts itself down to protect its vital organs and then quickly begins to heal. It never ceases to amaze me how in a matter of a few short weeks a traumatized body can move from knocking on the door of death to starting the long journey down the road of recovery. Ultimately when our bodies recognize danger, they naturally close in on themselves and focus solely on getting past the danger.
Self-preservation is certainly a good thing for our natural bodies, but we as human people, were created not just to survive. We were created to flourish and if we want to flourish, we need to take a step back to see the eternal picture and recognize that we are destined, not just to survive in this world, but to flourish forever in heaven. While our bodies may be able to preserve us for a while on this earth, they simply cannot preserve us for eternity. No person in human history has ever had the ability to escape death. Whether we live 50, 80 or 100 years death will come for us all, but as people of faith, we know death is not the end. Just as our bodies are naturally wired preserve us for this life, our souls are wired to open themselves up to receive the saving grace that only God can give. Thus, as human beings composed of a body and soul we need to open ourselves to the Lord and allow Him to preserve us for eternal life.
It can be so easy to turn in on ourselves and try to preserve ourselves, but today Jesus begs us to step back. He begs us to see the eternal picture and place ourselves in His hands. For when we are in the hands of God we have nothing to fear. While this is certainly a risk “the Lord does not disappoint those, who take this risk; whenever we take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there waiting for us with open arms.”
Before we can begin to place ourselves in His hands, we first have to recognize His infinite love of us. After all a child only comes to follow the ways of their parents because they know deep down that their parents love them and thus want what is best for them. The same is true for God. If we are going to follow Him to eternal life, we must first acknowledge that He loves us, wants what is best for us, and as God knows what is best for us. If we are ever tempted to doubt God’s love for us we need to look no further than the crucifix. Jesus wasn’t wrestled on that cross. No, He showed us how much He loved us by freely going to the cross for us. If He was willing to pour out His blood on the cross, what will He do for us now, if only we will trust Him? But how often do we walk past crucifixes at church, in our homes and perhaps even at work and not even notice? If we want to move beyond self-preservation then perhaps we need to begin recognizing Christ on the cross and every time we pass a crucifix offer Him a prayer of thanksgiving for His unmerited love for us.
I believe one of the greatest problems in our culture today, is that we often place our own worth in the things we do. We find our value in our job, the car we drive, the house we own, or in what we can contribute to society. But the cross reminds us that our value doesn’t come from what we do, it comes from who we are. Our value comes from the truth that we are created in God’s image and likeness. We are sons and daughters of a God who loves us so much that He was willing to suffer and die to preserve us for eternal life. Friends faced with the reality of the cross we have to realize there is nothing more we can do that will supersede what God has already given us.
Today, as our world rightly honors our fathers, we are invited to see God as our Father. I dare say if I asked any father here today why they loved their children, they would say they love them for who they are and not for what they do. Well God is our Father, so why would it be any different with Him? While there are some children who feel they need to earn their father’s love, I dare say any true father will tell you there is nothing a son or daughter can do to make them love them because they have loved them from the moment, they first set their eyes upon their child. It thus begs the question for each and every one of us. Do we let God love us for who we are or do we feel like we need to do something to earn God’s love?
If we remember the story of Jesus’ crucifixion we recall that two other criminals were crucified with Jesus. The bad thief demanded that Jesus do something, namely save them from the cross, but the good thief did just the opposite, He simply asked to be with Jesus and Jesus rewarded that simple request, assuring Him that He would be preserved forever in heaven. What about you? Are you going to ask God to do something for you or will you ask God to be with you?
There is always a natural tendency within us to try and preserve ourselves but in trying to preserve ourselves we ultimately lose ourselves to fear. Today Jesus tells us not to be afraid. He extends to us an invitation to place ourselves in His hands. What about you? Are you focused solely on surviving or are you ready to allow Him to move you past self – preservation towards human flourishing and eternal life?
 Pope Francis. Evangelii Gaudium. Washington DC: USCCB. (2014) . Pg. 1.