“No teacher who ever lived told those who heard him that the rejection of his words would mean their damnation. Even those who believe that Christ was only a teacher would scruple at this judgment about receiving His message. But as He was primarily a savior, the alternative was understandable.
To reject the savior was to reject salvation, as Our Lord called Himself in the house of Zacchaeus. The questioners of His authority had no doubt of the spiritual significance of the parable and the reference to themselves. Their motives were discovered, which only exasperated more those whose designs were evil.
When evil is revealed in the light, it does not always repent; sometimes it becomes more evil. The good repent on knowing their sin; the evil become angry when discovered. Ignorance is not the cause of evil, as Plato held; neither is education the answer to the removal of evil.
These men had an intellect as well as a will; knowledge as well as intention. Truth can be known and hated; goodness can be known and crucified. The Spirit of Christ in man convinces him of sin. Nothing but the spirit can convince man of sin; conscience could not, for it can sometimes be smothered; public opinion cannot, for it sometimes justifies sin; but the gravest sin of all which the Spirit would reveal would not be intemperance, avarice, or lust, but unbelief in Christ.
It is this same Spirit of God which renders the sinner not merely conscious of his state, but also contrite and penitent, when he accepts redemption. To reject the Redeemer is to prefer evil to good. The crucifix is an autobiography in which man can read the story of his own life, either to his own salvation or his own condemnation. So long as sin was regarded only from a psychological point of view, the Cross of Christ appeared as an exaggeration.
The sand of the desert, the blood of a beast, or water could just as well purify man. But once sin was seen under the sight of infinite holiness, then the Cross of Christ alone could equal and satisfy for this tragic horror. Once man is convinced of his own sinfulness, he cannot be convinced of his own righteousness; once a man is convinced that Christ has saved him from sin, then he is convinced that Christ is his righteousness.
To have accepted Christ as our righteousness and to have embraced His holy faith is no guarantee of freedom from trials. The Divine Savior never said to His Apostles: “Be good and you will not suffer”; but He did say: “In this world you shall have tribulation.” He told them also not to fear those that kill the body, but rather to fear those who can kill the soul.
Now He told the Apostles that His life was a model for all of His followers; they were encouraged to take the worst this life had to offer with courage and serenity. He said that all sufferings were as the shade of “His hand outstretched caressingly”. No talisman was He to promise as security from trials; rather as a captain He went into battle in order to inspire men to transfigure some of life’s greatest pains into the richest gains of the spiritual life.
As the poet Edward Shillito has put it: ‘No false gods, immune from pain and sorrow, could console us in these days.’ “
Fulton J. Sheen, “Go to Heaven: A Spiritual Road Map to Eternity” (pp. 60-62). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.
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