We have all heard the expression “mind your own business.” Perhaps we ourselves have said it to an individual who is being overly curious about something in our lives, or asking something very personal. In these cases, it makes sense. But at other times it can be a kind of escape mechanism when someone sincerely wants to help us and we turn him or her away. It can be the rude answer of a person who doesn’t really want to think about his or her life in a serious way, or to change what needs to be changed.
Jesus Christ minded His business, and our business, when He came to this world. He did not want to live as an isolated deity in the sky who really doesn’t care about the human race He created. He took the tremendous risk of coming to this world, becoming like us in everything but sin—and eventually dying for us. In other words, He made a real commitment to us. As St. Paul writes to an early Christian community, Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:6–7).
If we are to find real fulfillment and happiness in our life, we, too, must learn to forget about ourselves and give ourselves truly to God and to others. This is the constant message of the Gospel, of the early Christians, of all the saints throughout the ages, and most recently of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. “Real love is demanding,” the former once said to a large group of young people. “I would fail in my mission if I did not clearly tell you so. . . . Love demands effort and a personal commitment to the will of God. It means discipline and sacrifice, but it also means joy and human fulfillment.”
Today there are many ways to escape the challenge of Christ and His love. We can immerse ourselves in business concerns, hobbies, or entertainment and give very little attention to God or to others. We can distract ourselves in a technological world of smartphones, Facebook, and tweets; we could even run the risk of rarely looking a fellow human being in the eye or trying to get to know him or her personally. We can avoid taking a stand on anything—including the dignity of human life and the existence of right and wrong—and in doing so we can even be praised for being “up-to-date and informed,” or “intellectually progressive and cool.” We can even be noncommittal about the permanence of marriage, the existence of God, and the need for a Church—and find acceptance and support from many voices in the modern media, including a multitude of contemporary authors and agnostic college professors.
But ultimately, ours would be a sad and meaningless life. No truth. No love. No goals. No adventure. In the end, our existence would be extremely boring, the expression used by Pope Francis to challenge people at the 2016 World Youth Day in Poland. In such a world, we would suffocate since we have nothing to live for, or to die for. In the words of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, we would experience exactly what Macbeth experienced after years of selfishness, violence, and greed: “[Life]/ is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Not so if we believe in Jesus Christ and His Church. For He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and “He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25–26). If we have faith in Him and His Church, which is His Bride in heaven and on earth, we will see the way clearly. We will discover that there is a truth worth knowing, living, and even dying for. There is a plan and a love that give meaning to our life, and they lead us to forget about ourselves and to think of others. Life then becomes for us just the opposite of Macbeth’s tragic line: it becomes a tale told by Jesus Christ, full of love and adventure, signifying everything.
Such is the story of redemption and co-redemption. Such was the message of St. John to those early followers of Christ who were trying to change the world for Christ, one person at a time, one family at a time. They were indeed like the light in a very dark, pagan world—a world largely based on greed and lust. Yet somehow Christ and His followers prevailed and gradually changed people’s attitudes toward life, family, work, even entertainment. They realized that they were His chosen ones, and that He would never abandon them. In union with Him they truly redeemed the world, though for many it cost them their lives.
Christ and His Church are still working in the world. Despite the action of the evil one, despite the ignorance and indifference of so many people (including Catholics), despite the hypocrisy and scandals that have hit the Church, Christ continues to work in history, and He continues to act through faithful men and women who will listen to His word, stand up for the truth, and spread His light and love to those around them. He also seeks men and women who do not run away from the cross, for it is through that cross that Jesus Christ continues to save every soul on earth.
MICHAEL GIESLER is a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei who lives in Saint Louis, Missouri. He has written a trilogy of books about the early Christians and their transforming influence in the world during the first centuries after Christ, along with many articles about Scripture and contemporary topics. Fr. Giesler is also the author of a short book with practical advice for helping young people to do mental prayer. He has taught and offered spiritual direction for both priests and laymen for over forty years.
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With a clear and lively style, How Christ Saves Souls—with Us: The Mystery of Co-Redemption calls the everyday Catholic to embrace their role as a partaker in Christ’s redeeming grace. Fr. Michael Giesler uses sound theological and scriptural backing to illustrate, in practical terms, how each of us can truly be another Christ, Christ Himself (ipse Christus), in our words and actions.