St. Margaret Mary* received the vision of the… Sacred Heart. The divine human Heart. Of Jesus. Beating right now.
St. Paul began his letter to the Romans by declaring the fundamental historical fact involved in the proclamation of the Gospel: the divine man Jesus died and rose again. The resurrection..
Lord Jesus Himself referred to this fundamental fact in our gospel reading at Holy Mass today, too: The sign of God’s saving work on earth is the sign of Jonah. The death of Christ; His burial; then His resurrection from the dead on the third day.
Is Christianity something nice? Something good? Something helpful? Does Christianity make positive contributions to world history? Does it have beneficial psychological effects? Does it make people better citizens? More productive? Better educated?
Anyone ever heard of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche? About 125 years ago, many European Christians lost confidence in the historical reliability of the gospels. These Christians decided they weren’t 100% sure that Jesus actually did rise from the dead on Easter Sunday.
Instead they started arguing things like: Our ancient Scriptures may not be altogether true, but isn’t Christianity good for mankind anyway? Hasn’t it contributed to the progress of the human race? Doesn’t it make people nice?
Nietzsche responded with a withering attack. Christianity has helped the human race? No! To the contrary. It makes people too weak and submissive. Too stoic about their difficulties. Too resigned to suffering. Christianity makes people too sympathetic with others and un-competitive. Christianity has hurt the human race worse than anything, Nietzsche argued, because we do better when we put our individual selves first and fight!
Now, to our ears, these sound like scandalous arguments. Selfishness is better? Contempt for the weak is better? Nietzsche’s ideas strike us as appallingly ugly.
Except that they tend to ring true in the world as we know it. The world is manifestly not nice. If the question is: Is being nice better, or is being competitive better? Or: Is being selfish better, or is being empathetic better? Or: Would the human race be more “advanced” if no one had ever heard of Christ? If those are the fundamental questions, we don’t have the answers.
Which is why we always have to stay focused on facts. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead. Selflessness, kindness, and being willing to suffer for true love are all better. But only because Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
That fact comes first. We can leave questions about the “advancement of mankind” to others. We’re not even sure that we ourselves are really all that nice. But we are Christians. Because Jesus of Nazareth is alive.
*Died 327 years ago tomorrow.