The Second Vatican Council gives the Christian laity a mandate: to carry the Gospel into the world, into the marketplace and neighborhoods where priests and religious have no access, and to infuse the world with Gospel values.
It’s a massive task – a massive responsibility… and I must say, I don’t think we’re doing a very good job of it. The reasons why are many, but the fact remains – as Keith Green said, years ago, “This generation of believers is responsible for this generation of souls.” We need to wake up and do our job – because we will be held acountable for it, on the Day of Judgment.
So – what is this Gospel we’re supposed to be carrying into the world? It’s neatly summed up in the Credo – “I believe in One God….” and one doesn’t have to have a doctorate in Systematic Theology to get the gist of the Creed. It’s simple, basic, practical. It’s Theology For Beginners in a nutshell. It gives us a clear idea of Who God Is and what our relationship to Him is.
Furthermore, we ought not to be reluctant to speak of Him – particularly when we hear people who have a misguided sense of Who God Is. After all, instructing the ignorant is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy.
What may be a bit trickier is this business of infusing the world with gospel values. Just what does that mean? And what difference does it make?
Well, because of Who God Is – the basic truths laid out in the Creed – there are things we are obligated to do. There are values and morals we are supposed to live. Yes, it really matters what we do in this world. While it is true that God wants us to be happy, it is not true that means we can pursue “happiness” without regard to His commands. In order to be God’s kind of happy – eternally happy with Him in the Beatific Vision – we have to live according to His blueprint.
Looking at the Old Testament, particularly in the Books of Exodus and Leviticus, we see a strange thing. Again and again, we see Commandments being introduced with words like these: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt….” and then a rule or command follows. It is as if God is laying out for us a basic cause-and-effect proposition: Because of Who I am, you will behave in thus-and-such manner to reflect that you belong to ME, and not to some other god.”
Let’s face it – those other gods were not nice. We got a glimpse of this in our basic mythology lessons, back in our school days. Those Greek myths we were subjected to actually reflected the whole of the ancient pagan world. The gods were licentious, murderous, vindictive, manipulative, calculating, deceitful… utterly selfish. Self-serving. And the cultures that considered themselves governed by these gods were governed by the same self-serving qualities of the deities they had invented for themselves.
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, on the other hand, was a very different character. He demanded a certain ethos from his people – an ethos very different from the pagan cultures that dominated the world – because He was a very different God.
Those values were obedience, honesty, kindness, hospitality, respect for life, due reverence to Him, sexual morality, respect for others’ self and property. The Ten Commandments is the same in-a-nutshell blueprint of the morality required of the people of God – but what we don’t often think of is that those Commandments stand in stark contrast to the rest of the world’s values.
The world we now live in has been infused – saturated! – with what are actually pagan values: sexual license, the treatment of people as utilitarian objects, acquisitiveness, and so on.
To infuse the world with gospel values requires two things of us – First, we must become familiar with what gospel values are. NO, GOSPEL VALUES DO NOT EQUAL WHAT THE WORLD CALLS “SOCIAL JUSTICE!” Often gospel values require us to stand up and say, “No, this thing you are doing is immoral and dangerous to society,” and we must say this even while the world insists we are wrong for saying it.
And that leads to the second thing – we must be willing to have God re-arrange us, to be, truly, our Lord. When Paul wrote to the Romans, “Be transformed… by the renewing of your minds,” he was speaking to a people who had converted to Christ out of one of the wildest, most depraved pagan cultures recorded in history. Paul realized that these people, in order to be truly converted to Christ, had to undergo a total paradigm shift. Their minds – their attitudes, their sensibilities – had to be transformed from their old pagan identity (what! did you think the gentiles were “Protestant Jews”?) to a completely different identity, an identity that reflected the integrity of this One they had given themselves to in Conversion.
And so must we. I believe we are obligated, as Christians, to hold each of our opinions and attitudes up to God and to ask Him, “does this please You?” – We have to embrace Gospel Values in order to be able to bring those into the world we inhabit.