Friday, February 09, 2007

If you belonged to the world...

If I had no choice about the age in which I was to live, I nevertheless have a choice about the attitude I take and about the way and the extent of my participation in its living ongoing events. To choose the world is not then merely a pious admission that the world is acceptable because it comes from the hand of God. It is first of all an acceptance of a task and a vocation in the world, in history and in time. In my time, which is the present. To choose the world is to choose to do the work I am capable of doing, in collaboration with my brother and sister, to make the world better, more free, more just, more liveable, more human. And it has now become transparently obvious that mere automatic "rejection of the world" and "contempt for the world" is in fact not a choice but the evasion of choice. The man, who pretends that he can turn his back on Auschwitz or Viet Nam, and act as if they were not there, is simply bluffing.

From: Contemplation in A World of Action. NY: Doubleday and Company, 1971: 164-165

This is a terrifying quote, really, for someone like me - a man who likes a quiet life, is appalled by confrontation and violence, and just likes to live and let live. And yet our Lord didn't really offer the option of a quiet life. He said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also..." John 15:18-20 (NIV)

We cannot as Christians sit quietly on the sidelines while the world gets the next Dachau, the next Gulag, ready for action. Even if we know that our call is to the prayer place, and not to the physical barricades, we will have to bear the consequences. The emotional and spiritual consequences most certainly - but we can't forget either the old maxim that we must be prepared to be the answer - or part of the answer - to our own prayers. If we pray for someone to do or say something to stand up against evil, against our growing British surveillance society, for instance, we mustn't be too surprised if God says, in the words of the old National Lottery adverts, "It's you!"

And I shudder.

God, give me the grace to walk in your ways, always, please. Otherwise I'd run in my ways, right away from any such thing...

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