The Trouble with the World

Do not let your hearts be trouble Passion of the Christ
John 14:1

Let’s thank the good Lord that he kept someone as intelligent and insightful as St. John the Evangelist so close to Himself at the Last Supper. St. John remembered and wrote down some important things that Jesus said that evening.

Our readings from chapter 14 of St. John’s gospel began last Sunday, with the Lord Jesus saying: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Now, the Apostles might reasonably have asked: “Don’t let our hearts be troubled? But you have just told us that you will not be with us much longer, and that we cannot go to the place where you are going. Of course our hearts are troubled!”

And we might reasonably ask also: “Don’t let our hearts be troubled? Lord, You came to reveal the face of the eternal and almighty Father, then you vanished into the heavens. But these days no one seems to care about anything other than internet access and Donald Sterling. The world seems to have closed in on itself completely, and people want immediate satisfaction instead of eternal life. Of course our hearts are troubled!”

Maybe I could try to summarize and express a couple ideas found in the Lord Jesus’ ensuing words in John 14.

1. What we see is not everything. ‘The world’ not only does not, but cannot, accept the Spirit of truth, because, to put it simply, the world is not big enough.

Snow-LeopardWhat we see, what we taste, touch, and smell—like ice-cream cones, tvs, tulips, beaches, and baseball games—none of these things—even all of them taken together—they do not stand on their own, do not exist on their own. If they are shiny, they do not shine on their own. If they make music, or produce good smells, they do not emanate beauty on their own. They all stand; they all proceed; they all have their place because of the bigger Source, the Giver Who gives existence, Who moves everything that moves, Who beautifies the beautiful.

Speaking of this world getting hard to understand: Maybe you know that the Virginia Court of Appeals has a case before it about whether two men or two women can get married. And there are other current court cases that trouble me, too, involving decent people who have committed no real crime other than doing us the favor of coming from the south to live among us here.

Over the course of the past few years, I have occasionally tried to put myself in the shoes of the judges who have to decide such cases. Seems to me that these cases touch on the most basic truths that make a community a community and a society a society.

To get to the bottom of it, we need to reach the basic fact that I was just trying to outline, namely that what we see is not everything. There is more. There is a God, Who sees all, knows all, and wills our true, honest good–sharing some knowledge of His mind and will with us.

Which brings us to Idea #2 from John 14.

2. Not only is there a bigger Reality than what we see, but our souls themselves are a bigger reality than what we see. We ourselves—each of us individually and all of us together—we are bigger than what we see.

Jesus said, “The world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.” Now, who am I to try to interpret this? But let me try:

‘The world’ will no longer see Christ, because, again quite simply, ‘the world’ cannot see with the vision that He is talking about.

st petersObviously, stones and dandelions and motorcycles and boxes of cereal cannot see at all. But even fish and hawks and jaguars cannot see in the way that Jesus is talking about. Because He is talking about seeing the whole—i.e., understanding, grasping interiorly, being united in mind with the complete reality—being united in mind, to some limited extent, with God’s own mind.

Only we—only man—can see like this. Only we can see beauty; only we can hear harmony; only we can smell sweetness. Only we can imagine. Only we can hope for an as-yet-unseen future. And only we can exercise creativity.

I’ve got to wrap this up now, or we will be here all day. My point is: The gifts of Christ’s Holy Spirit—the humble fear, courage, piety, counsel, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom of the truly spiritual man—we must have these gifts to grasp reality as it actually is:

Namely: God, and everything which God has made—all of which moves by God’s power towards a goal. And the goal is everlasting love; real love, forever. God has made everything out of His infinite fruitfulness. Our goal is to share in that fruitfulness. That goal is the only thing we can really happily live for.

Hunger and desire and sleep and work and the economy and love and sex and friendship—they all have an unseen source, an inexorable direction, and a glorious goal. Nothing really makes any sense if we do not grasp this foundation of reality. We are not truly alive until we grasp it.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” The trouble is only in the short run, the pilgrim journey. The trouble troubles only the little wheeling, capricious, fuss-and-bother world. We meet the trouble with all the love and truth we have.

God made a beautiful world. But it is small; the world is small, compared to us, compared to our minds and our hearts. The troubled world is very small, compared to God. When we seek God, and know the world is His, then it starts to make sense, and we see what our part in it is. We are made to love honestly.

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