Have you ever gone to a museum of contemporary modern art, like the museum of that very name in Chicago, or the Whitney Museum in New York? Every three or four years, I’ll have some time in a city and decide to kill an hour in one of these museums. I always regret it. When I leave, I usually have the feeling that I didn’t just kill and hour, I bludgeoned it to death. So many of the exhibits are black, dismal, and hopeless. I leave the museum asking myself, “Why are these people so negative? How is it that they cannot see anything worthwhile in the world around them?”
I have to ask myself similar questions when I come upon people mired in the Goth culture or even some of those into Heavy Metal. Why do they exalt the macabre? Why do they see life as dark and morbid? Is it simply to be different from everyone else? Probably. But they also may be externalizing a fear that so many people have, the fear that life is too difficult to imagine. All this negativity, including that expressed by so many contemporary artists, is not all that new at all. The negativity expresses the reality of those who live without hope. For them life is frustrating. For them, the best that can be hoped for is here and now. “Life is imperfect. We are all imperfect, “ they would point out. Their basic attitude is paraphrased by that nasty saying, “Life is difficult, and then we die.”
This is not the attitude of the Christian. Even when faced with the most horrible challenges the world can offer, the Christian is not hopeless. In the second reading for this Sunday, the first pope, St. Peter, speaks about the reason for our hope. Christians, then and now, are counter cultural. We do not embrace the malaise of a meaningless life. St. Peter tells us that we should not be afraid to give anyone who asks the reason for our hope. Our hope is in Jesus Christ who cares for each of us personally, who understands our struggles better than we understand them, and who brings joy and peace to our lives even when life becomes difficult.
The Graduation Season is upon us. The young people preparing to move on to high school, college or start their careers are full of enthusiasm. The basic attitude of most of our children, Teens and young adults is a mixture or happiness, excitement, and unlimited potential. It is all infectious. We see them and know that the world will progress as long as the young keep their enthusiasm for life. They give us hope. We cannot look at our young, from little children on up, and give up on life. Life is beautiful. Just look at the beautiful people about to take it by its horns. They know that they their dreams will come at the price of hard work, and they are ready for it. But their enthusiasm for life will drain and our bright lights will become dark unless the young and unless we all, keep our focus on the reason for our hope, Jesus Christ.
How can we do this? With all the distractions in life, how do we keep our Christian focus? We do this by dedicating ourselves to truth. That is what the Gospel reading tells us. Usually when we think about truth, we consider it as simply not telling a lie. Well, that is not sufficient. Truth is more than the opposite of saying something that is false. Truth is the opposite of living a lie. Christ speaks about the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth. Truth gives us the ability to live an authentic life. When we focus in on ourselves, we are living a lie. When we focus on sacrificial love, we are living a genuine, true life. When we make self gratification the goal of our lives we are living a lie, the lie that we can make ourselves happy. When we commit ourselves to the Lord, we are living the profound Truth that happiness comes from Him alone.
Today’s readings speak about joy. There is the joy that new Christians in Samaria had after they were baptized by Philip. There is the joy that St. Peter tells us is the reason for our hope. There is the joy that Jesus says comes from the Love of the Father.
We Christians are truly eternal optimists. We may be dying of cancer, we may be in difficult family situations, strained relationships, financially hurting, what have you, but no matter what the situation, we know that if we are true to Christ, He will always be the source of our joy.
We live for the Lord. We die for the Lord.
That is authentic Christian life.