In 1962, a few days before his high school graduation, a young man took out his souped up Autobianchi Bienchina for a spin. Being a race car driver was his sole ambition in life. While making an illegal left hand turn, however, another car broadsided him, flipping him over several times, landing his car in a tree. His seatbelt broke, and he was ejected from the car.
This traumatic event caused him to turn his sights from race car driving to the cinema. Combining a childhood affection for the pulp fiction comic Flash Gordon, an interest in eastern mysticism, and ancient chivalry and knighthood, George Lucas eventually released A New Hope in 1977 and the modern myth of Star Wars was born.
What has made this story endure for over four decades? Certainly it contains all the essential elements of good drama – complex character development and twisting plotline, existential crises and a dramatic climax – but it goes beyond good drama to myth by speaking in a unique way to the deepest questions of the human soul – Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? We seek with Luke the answer to our origins, our purpose. What is worth living for? What is worth dying for? The power of story is its ability to draw us into its world and help us understand who we are and how we should live in the world.
Examine with me the story that shapes and molds we who are in Christ: the biblical narrative. It answers the heart questions of Who am I? What is my purpose? even What is justice? very differently from the secular culture around us. First, the biblical story is rooted in gift. From the opening pages of Scripture we find a good God creating a good world as a gift to humanity.
In Pope John Paul II’s magisterial work, Man and Woman He Created Them, otherwise known as the TOB, this pope who lived through the Nazi occupation of Poland reflects deeply on the meaning of our humanity – what it means to be a person. He emphasizes that God created mankind ultimately for the communion of persons – the Beatific Vision. Mankind enters the depth of God’s own glory when we become people capable of loving the other – first God through and in Christ and then in loving our fellow beings.
Sin destroyed our original communion with God. Whereas mankind in their innocence knew God’s sustaining goodness in their hearts and experienced it in their bodies in the good world He made for them, sin cut them off from God and they turned inward. In hearts darkened with shame, their minds and desires became corrupted. The desire to be like God and live out of their own power and autonomy corrupted them so they began to live only for themselves – to fulfill their own needs, wants and desires.
The goal or purpose of our life is to overcome the sin in the human heart and so become persons capable of Loving God and neighbor. This is the amazing story of the Gospel. Christ as the new Adam – through His death and resurrection – restores mankind’s created nature to them.
Through His life, we become capable of real justice. The Bible acknowledges the reality of oppression and oppressors in this world. The world is filled with violence and tyranny. But the answer is not in replacing one system of power with another, but changing the heart of all mankind so that they are capable of treating others as they would like to be treated.
Justice in the Bible is living in right relationship with God and then with man. People who live in this way are the kind of people capable of building a truly just society. In a fallen world, our best hope is to try to manage the power structures and systems to protect the rights of the vulnerable.
The Biblical narrative is one of Gift, God giving mankind life and a good world with everything necessary to sustain that life and then because of sin, giving the greatest gift of self – Christ – as the true man in whom we can become authentically human – of love for Him and the other. This is the gift of the true communion of persons in which life flourishes.
We have always had competing ideologies – competing narratives – that seek to distort the Truth of the way the world really is – what is new in our culture is the aggressive attack and very successful inroads secular ideology is making throughout every institution in our society and world – redefining marriage, the economy, the law, business, education. A hurricane is blowing and has already begun to make landfall. I am telling you this today because I want you to be aware of the storm that is upon us. Jesus said to build our lives on the Rock so that when the rains come and the floods rise, your house will endure. It is time for each of us to determine in our own hearts what narrative we will follow, what our convictions will be, what our line in the sand is – no matter the financial, social, or career cost.
We are entering a new phase of life here in the US. But this is not new for centuries of Christians, and the Israelites before them. How did they survive in the midst of world powers who constantly sought to envelope them under their control? By remembering their story and retelling their story. The true story that tells us who we truly are and what our purpose in Life is. True life hinges on knowing the Living God Who loves us and invites us into the gift of communion of persons. To live in anything less is to live a lie – a lie that is seeking to destroy not only our society but our very selves. May we have godly faith that overcomes the world and brings justice for all.
— Noël Maxwell, Library Director