“If [Jesus] is what he claimed to be, a Savior, a Redeemer, then we have a virile Christ and a leader worth following in these terrible times; One who will step into the breach, crushing sin, gloom, and despair; a leader to Whom we can make totalitarian sacrifice without losing, but gaining freedom, and Whom we can love even unto death. We need a Christ today who will make cords and drive the buyers and sellers from our new temple; Who will blast unfruitful fig trees; Who will talk of crosses and sacrifices and Whose voice will be like the voice of the raging sea. But He will not allow us to pick and choose among his words, discarding the hard ones and accepting the ones that please our fancy. We need a Christ who will restore moral indignation, Who will make us hate evil with a passionate intensity, and love goodness to a point where we can drink death like water.”
--- From The Life of Christ (p.8), Archbishop Fulton Sheen
For years in his radio and then television show, Fulton Sheen insisted to American audiences that life was indeed worth living. It was a message needed as much then as it is now.
Sheen wrote in a time of continuing industrialization, consumerism, and materialism in both senses of that terrible word. As man denied God, either by the fast route of outright and immediate denial taken by the atheist or marxist or the slow route of increasing apathy, non attendance at mass, and increasing deism, modern man found there was nothing left to lend meaning, purpose, or value to his life.
Nietzche, one of the earliest prophets of the God-is-dead movement proclaimed that since God was dead, nihilism, the destruction of all meaning, value, and purpose in life was the consequence. Others proclaimed the absurdity of life as well. Heidegger wrote “If God... is dead... then nothing more remains to which man can cling and by which he can orient himself.” The French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre spoke of the “nausea” of existence. Camus (The Stranger) has the hero of his novel realize in a flash that the universe had no God and hence no meaning. Indeed, to Camus the only serious question in life was whether or not one should commit suicide.
Unfortunately, our world today followed these thinkers in denying both God and hence any meaning or purpose in life. Nietzsche was right, the death of God leads only to nihilism. Confronted with an apparently pointless and meaningless life, many choose to leave it. Thence the current problem of suicide among the youth. It is hard to live in a world where everything means nothing and nothing means anything. After a century of world wars, genocides, ethnic cleansings, abortions, how is man to look on life without despair?
I can think of only one way out and one hope for the world. It was given by St. Augustine when he said “you have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” It was given by Thomas Aquinas, who when told by God that he might ask for any one thing replied, “I will have thyself.” It was given by St. Francis when he proclaimed “My God and My All.” And it is given above by the Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
In Jesus there is a leader Who we can follow into the fire, because He went through it first. In Him is someone not only worth living for, but worth dying for. In Him is hope not only for the sunrise beyond the veil of this world, but hope for the world itself. In Him the world becomes a place of meaning, purpose, and value. In Him is hope that suffering and death will not have the last word. And, in Him, is our Captain, and banner, and Resurrection.