As the new year has begun here at Duke, I continue to wonder what is the key for most students to engage their faith. I see our staff and our student leadership running from A to Z trying to put invitations out there that will be compelling enough to get a student to consider Christ in his or her life. And while a good number of our initiatives bear fruit for which we are grateful, the majority of Catholic students remain outside our reach. It is hard to undo in a short span of time what has taken years to create – an apathy toward a meaningful relationship with Christ in the Church.
It is tough to compete with “the good life” and Duke University prides itself on providing a pretty good life. While it never speaks in these terms, it realizes that its students are consumers who, if not provided what they are looking for, will head elsewhere. If you build it they will come, and build it they have. So how do we present the Cross of Christ in a climate where the crane of construction is the real symbol of growth?
Dress Jesus up as we may, he ultimately is nailed to a cross, and short of it none of us will ever come. If we are to really appreciate the deepest meanings of the good life, it must come through our appreciation of the difficult life – the crucified life. This Sunday’s Gospel gives us an image of our current day – a deaf man with a speech impediment. Having closed our ears to not be exposed to what is difficult to hear, our world has in the process begun to speak garbled messages that make little sense at their core. The world tries to explain the “not so good” side of life and sounds either silly or scary. But do we need to wait for the cross to truly experience “the good life”?
If we would simply open our ears regularly to “the Good News” rather than close them for the sake of a fake good life, we would realize that the truly good life that Christ offers us is not only the most meaningful response when times are tough, but more amazingly is a far more stupendous experience of the true good in life. May this new year, with all of the goodness that it has to offer to us, be filled with a deep appreciation of Christ in our lives such that our experience of the good doesn’t seem like so much cotton candy when the inevitable cross comes our way.
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