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Working out.

I have been thinking of the relationship between the commands to "with fear and trembling work out your salvation" (Phil 2:12) and "do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day" (Mt 6:34). How does one lead an anxiety-free existence while shaking like an aspen? It occurs to me that conducting oneself with the goal of eternal life leads to that anxiety-free existence. We are all going to experience joy and sorrow and eventually die; however, faith, hope, and love allow us to see the life to come. The theological virtues provide meaning for this world and orient us to the world to come. As St. Therese of Lisieux says, "The world's thy ship and not thy home." St. Therese clearly had a wonderful imagination.

Mankind has lost the ability even to get a good deal out of this world. When Rich perjured himself to secure Thomas Mores death he at least got a promotion and an increase in pay. He was famously rebuked by More, who said to him, "Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world ... but for Wales!" Rich appeared to forsake his eternal happiness in an attempt to have his heaven on earth. The man who makes that deal does not gain happiness in this world and, if he dies unrepentant, rejects his salvation. Contrast this with the words of Our Lord, who says, "For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Mt 16:25). Rejecting Christ increases neither longevity nor freedom; it simply puts one automatically past his "best before" date. As stated, we all die. Christ asks us to reject the lasting death to arrive at Heaven through Him, with Him, and in Him.

Today we pay exorbitant amounts of money to corporations in an effort to waste vast amounts of time tapping away at screens of various sizes and shapes. No, I am not arguing that these devices are evil in and of themselves. However, as someone employed in the education field, I see a widespread inability on the part of many students to go even an hour without attempting to surreptitiously use these gizmos. Addiction of one type or another has become de rigeur today. At least Rich got richer. We pay handsomely today to limit our freedom and sign long-term contracts to ensure that it stays that way--nothing like voluntarily clasping the iron on oneself.

I understand the desire to seek distractions when things are not going so well. I know this often takes the form of wasting time. I also suspect that this has its origin in a lack of faith. The distractions are often giving in to the temptation to take our eyes off of God and fix them onto something empty. St. Therese of Lisieux says, "For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy." God is always there for us; he's only a (Bible) text away. He patiently calls us back even when we have Him on call block. Technology service providers don't exactly imitate Him when we try to abandon our relationship with them. Prayer is the plan that offers unlimited data, voice, and messaging on the universe's Supreme 1G (od) network all for $0 a month. *

I'm persuaded that the fear and trembling has far less to do with what God might do to us and much more to do with what we might do to ourselves if we allow pointless distractions to keep us from Him. The devil distorts; he does not create. He would like us to trade our imagination for fixation; he encourages us to embrace a manacled stagnation and reject unfettered joy. G. K. Chesterton says, "The function of the imagination is not to make strange things settled, so much as to make settled things strange." God entered time, died for us, and settled our debt. We need to estrange ourselves from sin and embrace the "madness" of the Cross. We need to seek and savour the things that are above, through an authentic and unfettered imagination.

Do not worry. God can handle all our temporal problems with both hands tied behind His back or, for that matter, stretched out on a cross. All we need to do is to allow ourselves to see Him for who He is. Let us use our imaginations; it leads to the best things. As Chesterton says, "The trumpet of imagination, like the trumpet of the Resurrection, calls the dead out of their graves."

* For an unlimited time only.

Michael Thompson is an educator writing from Lakefield, Ontario.
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Title Annotation:human salvation
Author:Thompson, Michael
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Nov 1, 2013
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