Wednesday, October 01, 2008

On Surrender

The focal point my lesson on Baptism is that it is the new Christian's total surrender; and thus that Christianity is fundamentally a faith of surrender. In RCIA Monday evening, I encountered some examples of just that. But some of the things people said modified my understanding.

It's a cheap aphorism to tell someone to "Let go, and let God," as if it was acceptable to let one's obligations slide. The surrender demanded by Jesus was never a "giving up" with respect to our daily responsibilities. The "rest" offered by Jesus was never an invitation to sloth. I confess to feeling a little disappointed by this realization. Is Jesus' promise of rest not then empty? We are exhausted. To offer us rest and then to comission us to take up the cross seems a terrible bait-and-switch.

Faith informs me that Jesus' promise of rest is not empty; in fact, it is a promise that satisfies more completely and permanently than a summer vacation of sleep and leisure. All we have to do is look again at the Gospels. What Jesus demanded, and the only thing he ever asked, was for people to trust in him. It was that trust, that opening up to the Incarnate Word, that sparked incredible works among the people. Thus the Lord gives food to those he loves while they sleep.

To trust in Jesus Christ--a free response equally available to saint and sinner--means that one acknowledges God's power as real. Thus the rest he offers is real; it is more real than the rest of leisure. To understand this, we need to distinguish between two kinds of human effort: the effort of exertion, and the effort of will. Without grace, overexertion attacks the will. If we permit the will to become subject to nature, and entropy drags us down. With grace, the will is lifted up on supernatural columns, and it is held high without any effort on our part. No amount of exertion, nor suffering, nor "death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

And so, the "rest" that Jesus offers, the "easy yoke", is not a worldly kind of leisure or relaxation. In fact it is the opposite. By lifting the will up above the exhaust of nature, the grace of God leaves one feeling rested and new even through the extremes of human action and suffering.

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