Table of Contents
It is such an obvious question. “How is it that the lives of so many people who profess to be Christian are utterly inconsistent with Christianity?” This is a damning question for each of us. If those of us who profess to follow Jesus cannot live it authentically, why should anyone believe us when we talk about the value of our Christian faith?
But Houselander asks an even more pointed question: “How is it that people who do not believe in any creed, who have no moral standards and who do not recognise Charity as a thing necessary for salvation, are often consciously kind, warm-hearted, and tolerant, whereas professing Christians are notoriously hard, censorious, and exacting?” Ouch. Is this true? Are too many of us seen as cold and hard, maybe even unsympathetic to the brokenness and struggles in the world? Is it, as Houselander suggests, the case that a person who is really struggling or in need would consider a Christian the very last person from whom they would seek help?
Challenges on the Inside
And the challenges can also be internal. Not unlike Saint John Chrysostom, Houselander contrasts the one who will buy fancy vestments for Church but also pass the beggar on the street or give help to unknown people in the missions but to ignore those in need around where they live. The real challenge? “Above all, how is it that those in whom the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of fire and light, truth, beauty, wisdom, and love – abides can so often be narrow, bigoted, timid, mediocre, dull, and tepid, impotent in spirit, prudish, detached suspicious, and careful at the very marriage of heaven and earth? In Christ’s own words, “How is it that thou comest in hither without a wedding garment?””
The Christmas season is not simply a time for emotional light displays and pretty creches, but really is much more about examining how closely we not only say we follow Jesus, but actually do follow Jesus?
Becoming One with Jesus
The hard part is that we are called not simply to imitate Jesus, but to in fact become one with Jesus, to not only admire the life and Jesus and so try to do the same thing, but to allow Jesus to so enter our hearts that we find ourselves caught up in the most fulfilling relationship that can last forever because of its strength. We are called to allow ourselves to in fact become another Christ, just as Our Lady did in her life.
And so if this is the goal we seek to attain, then it means we need to allow ourselves to be challenged by the bible, in our prayer, by others who ask difficult questions. We simply cannot be satisfied with those bible verses with which we agree or praying those prayers that fail to challenge us to conversion or avoiding discussing issues with those who make us uncomfortable by the questions they ask us to answer. We must, as did our Lady, be ready to enter into suffering so as to show ourselves and others what it means to become another Christ.
The solution is to engage sincerely and strongly into the search, seeking the true and real Christ and to seek where He is in our lives. For Houselander cautions that we make for ourselves a lot of false “christs” who are merely projections of ourselves. Or, in the name of following Christ, we create a false christ that may make us feel better, but never challenges us to do even the slightest thing we do not want to do.
Another way we can create a false christ is to replace religion with something that is not religion. Consider whether you value more your religious faith or your political party affiliation? Are you more concerned with one group of people over another, using a false “christ” to justify your priorities?
When we chase this false christ, we are in fact, making an idol for ourselves. And the creation of an idol can occur even though we do not always know of it happening at first. Little by little, we can find ourselves adopting things that are not of Christ. And it matters that we seek in our hearts and in our lives the true Christ. “We become what our conception of Christ is: God made us in His own likeness, but we have an extraordinary power of changing ourselves into the likeness of the idols we make, of those caricatures of God which we set up on the altars of our egoism and worship.”
But when we grow into the love of the True Christ, Jesus the Christ as he really is, when we love this Christ more, we are transformed. “In the degree of the truth of our conception of Him, our minds grow broader, deeper, and warmer; our hearts grow wiser and kinder; our humour deeper and more tender; we become more aware of the wonder of life; our senses become more sensitive; our sympathies stronger; our capacity for giving and receiving greater; our minds are more radiant with a burning light, and the light is the light of Christ.”
Allow Yourself to Be Loved by God
The great problem is that too often we do not allow ourselves to be loved by God, because our image of God is not true and real. “It is easy to see that people become like their conception of God: hard if it is hard; flabby if it is soft; cruel if it is cruel.” The antidote to all of this is the previous chapter of Houselander’s book – to continue to search and seek for the lost child. For in the pain of the search we realize that our idols are not God. And when the lost child goes away, we are recognizing something more fully and completely. The seeking and the searching is of God.
I could not conclude this commentary any better than Houselander herself.
“He wants us to seek, because he wants to give Himself to us. It is an experience like the experience of emptiness: the emptiness must be there that he may fill it; and we must be aware of it in order that we may want him to fill it. “Why hast thou done so to us?” and the answer is simple, after all: “Seek and ye shall find.” His meaning is love.”
Previous Commentaries on the Reed of God
It can be helpful to have the book to read. To purchase books I recommend the Pauline sisters.