A Letter to the Fallen Away

While studying the theology of Benedict XVI through an online STEP course, a classmate, Bernadette Vance, suggested that we try writing our own apostolic type letters.  Choosing our own audience, we would to exhort them to Christian love and fidelity.  She chose politicians (who certainly need the advice).  I’m sharing my attempt here.  I wrote from my heart, so it’s a bit rambling.  (More on the STEP course here: http://step.nd.edu/registration/complete-catalog/theology-of-benedict-xvi/ )

A letter to the Fallen-Away

Dear brothers and sisters,

            I address      you in the name of Jesus Christ – not in order to beat you over      the head with a name, but so that you may have what God wants for      you: abundant life, so that your joy may be full.  For Jesus is      not part of a magic spell or formula that confers instant      perfection upon you, or instant health upon others, with its      vigorously repeated utterance.  Nor is Jesus a weapon to make      people who are not Christians feel inferior and accursed.  I come      before you, therefore, in my imperfection, with all my flaws,      mistakes, and weaknesses, as one who knows what it’s like to have      cringed at the sound of “Jesus” and who is now, much to my own      surprise, tenderly holding his name in my heart and finding myself      deeper, richer, and more fully human as a result.

            The intent      of this evangelization is not for you to subscribe to a club for      the self-righteous, nor for you to conform your behavior to my      mere liking under the threat of painful punishment and the lure of      candied reward.  As a fellow truth seeker, I do not wish you to      delude yourself with fairytales as though you were a child in need      of comfort or a cripple in need of a crutch.  No, my brothers and      sisters, I am one of you and I want the same thing that you want:      a full and joyous life.  But, in the love of truth, I ask you: are      you living the fullness of life?  Are you truly and fully human,      truly and fully alive?  If you turn your mind away from the      possibility of reality beyond your five physical senses, can you      truly say that you only want the truth?  If all the thoughts,      words, and actions of your life are concentrated on the mere      physical confines of perishable flesh and the fleeting pleasures      and accolades that the world has to offer, can you honestly say      that you are experiencing the fullness of being human?  More than      poetry and art, more than music and sensual delights, beautiful,      good, and powerful as they are, they point to something more – the      human spirit yearns for Something More.  This is the deepest bond      that we share with every human being, in every culture, in every      corner of the world, in every age.  And, yet, you would deny      yourself this Something More in your quest for happiness.  Does      this make sense?

Please don’t      let the bad examples of miserable, unloving people who call      themselves Christians or the fear of being labeled a      fantasy-loving fool by mainstream society lead you into a      soul-blindness that keeps you from becoming who you are made to      be.  Be brave!  Be bold!  Dig deeper, my brothers and sisters,      dive into the depths of being; look deeper, my fellow human      beings, see beyond the cardboard cutouts of Christ; love deeper,      my beautiful friends, embracing the one who gives himself utterly      and completely to you, who chooses a crown of thorns over      domination, who willingly receives spit and cruelty instead of      fawning and praise, who lets himself be imprisoned on a crossbeam      by iron spikes driven through his body rather than sitting in      comfort on a silken couch commanding all around him to bring him      pleasure… Don’t roll your eyes at this man, don’t look away with      dismissive disinterest if you are indeed a human being, if you are      at all capable of love.  I say to you, as one who once rejected      but who has now seen in ways unfathomable, whose gaze has been      lifted up out of the darkness of self-centeredness into the light      of ultimate reality… this person who pours his love out bodily         is God.  The Creator has become creature, fragile and      beaten like us, willing to suffer like us, for us, with us, so      that he can be fully with us and we can be fully with him – fully      alive, as he is glorified, for ponder the Resurrection, don’t      naïvely conclude that you know everything possible.  Look,      consider, dig deep, open yourself up to possibility so that you      can awaken the fullness of your humanity and be fully, abundantly      alive in body, mind, heart and soul – so that you can know what      it’s like to be united with the Divine, in the terrible beauty of      infinite, intimate love and true joy….  In the most often recorded      words of Jesus, Be not afraid.  Do something daring.

When you see      my wandering sister, Carole, please give her my love and these my      hopes for her fulfillment. Please also look respectfully upon her      husband, Carl, who has lately shown himself to be a true seeker of      fullness and life; in kindness, please do not let any coldness of      heart tempt him away from true and utter love.  Honest and loving      emissaries of Christ have been sent to you, I pray that you will      be able to recognize them and not shut them out of your lives.       From my place of solitude and prayer, I humbly ask God to do for      you what He has graciously done for me, though I am unworthy – to      gently and tenderly call my name.  Confident in God’s mercy and      generosity and hopeful for your receptiveness, I am

a child of God

and so your sister,

Christina

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