Jesus: Hope in an Age of Hopelessness
Last week in RCIA, we were discussing how Jesus is both the centre and summit of our faith. We had tracked how Jesus’ birth had been foretold in the Old Testament and how in his earthly ministry, Jesus always points us back to the Father. So far, so good.
Then we got to the passage: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). At this point, one lady asked: “So if we are saved only through Jesus, then what about people of other faiths? What about atheists? What about those who’ve never had the opportunity to encounter Jesus? Are they automatically separated from eternity with God because they haven’t accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour?”
One of the facilitators gave a beautiful answer, explaining that God’s mercy and love are more abounding than we can imagine. So even if someone of a different faith or no faith at all lives an upright life, there is a trace of Christ living in them and they are also on their journey to the Father.
Romans 2:14 declares Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
God’s love excludes no one, but rather takes our imperfect search for the Good and brings it to perfection. There was a brief silence. Then a voice from the back of the room said: “So then, what’s the point of being Christian? If every person of goodwill has already been saved by God, then what are we doing here?
“It’s a lot to commit one night a week for a whole year if you’re just going to tell us that it makes no difference whether I’m a Catholic, or a Muslim, or a Jew, or an atheist.”
Another facilitator picked up the question. He said Jesus is the surest way to God. He gave the analogy of Jesus as the highway that takes us straight to our destination instead of meandering through back roads and getting lost for lack of good signage. If we know the shortest route, why would we choose the detour?
That seemed to satisfy the RCIA participants and the lesson continued. However, the question remained with me. How has my faith in Jesus made the difference in my life?
Before going to bed that night, I sat on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate, contemplating the chaos of my flat (it was the night before I moved).
Our lives often resemble the state of my flat: A few areas of our lives are neatly packaged into boxes, while others spill out of the crates we try so hard to contain them in. Many more bits and pieces are strewn on the floor, threatening to overwhelm us. And then there’s the wind outside that will blow everything all over the place if we open the front door too wide.
But we can’t stay locked away in our fortresses. We are constantly bombarded by news of violent protests, politicians’ empty promises, the very real threat of terrorism.
Closer to home, our relationships are messy, often bearing a measure of the hurt we have caused and the injuries done to us. For some, our careers sap the life out of us, while for others unemployment drives us to desperation and addiction.
Hopelessness. That is probably the word that best describes our age. We need only look at the number of dystopian movies (The Maze Runner, Hunger Games, The Giver are just a few examples), to realise that we live in an age of hopelessness. There is a sense that the human race has run its course and even if we can find a way out of the mess we’ve created, the world we’ll inherit is pretty dismal. It’s within this context of hopelessness that my Christian faith takes root. What separates me from my friends who don’t believe in the existence of a God, is that I have hope. Even though I have the same daily struggles as everyone else, I’m confident there is something beyond this life.
I’m not setting my sights on the here and now, but am looking in the direction that Jesus has pointed me to: the Father.
This Jesus I know speaks with the same voice of love and compassion as his heavenly Father. He is love. He is mercy. He is gentleness. He is the one who soothes my pain.
He is the quiet stream where I can wash my weary feet, the eagle that carries me when I can no longer go on my own strength. In the words of St. Paul, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf” (Heb 6:19).
For me, being a Christian is not just about securing my salvation and my place in heaven someday. Believing in Jesus is the hope I need when I’m faced with the storms within my own soul as well as those storms that rage in the world around me.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life,” says Jesus. If he were speaking to us today, I’m certain that he would add: “I am the hope you need to find your way to me, to search for truth in a world filled with falsehood masked as truth, and to find meaning for your life amidst so much meaninglessness.” Jesus: Hope in an age of hopelessness.