Soul of the World
By Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
Christians are called to be the soul of the world
One of my favorite manuscripts from the early Church is entitled “A Letter to Diognetus”.
It was written by an anonymous Christian in response to an inquirer to the Christian faith. Though probably written in the second century, it is just as profoundly relevant today:
“For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind either in locality or in speech or in customs. For they dwell not somewhere in cities of their own, neither do they use some different language, nor practice an extraordinary kind of life.
Nor again do they possess any invention discovered by any intelligence or study of ingenious men, nor are they masters of any human dogma as some are. But while they dwell in cities of Greeks and barbarians as the lot of each is cast, and follow the native customs in dress and food and the other arrangements of life, yet the constitution of their own citizenship, which they set forth, is marvelous, and confessedly contradicts expectation.
They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships as strangers. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign.
They marry like all other men and they beget children; but they do not cast away their offspring. They have their meals in common, but not their wives. They find themselves in the flesh, and yet they live not after the flesh.
Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, and they surpass the laws in their own lives. They love all men, and they are persecuted by all. They are ignored, and yet they are condemned.
They are put to death, and yet they are endued with life. They are in beggary, and yet they make many rich. They are in want of all things, and yet they abound in all things. They are dishonored, and yet they are glorified in their dishonor.
They are evil spoken of, and yet they are vindicated. They are reviled, and they bless; they are insulted, and they respect Doing good they are punished as evildoers; being punished they rejoice, as if they were thereby quickened by life. The Jews wage war against them as aliens, and the Greeks carry on persecution against them, and yet those that hate them cannot tell the reason of their hostility.
In a word, what the soul is in a body, the Christians are in the world.
The soul is spread through all the members of the body, and Christians through the divers cities of the world. The soul hath its abode in the body, and yet it is not of the body. So Christians have their abode in the world, and yet they are not of the world.
The soul, which is invisible, is guarded in the body, which is visible: so Christians are recognized as being in the world, and yet their religion remains invisible.
The flesh hates the soul and wages war with it, though it receives no wrong, because it is forbidden to indulge in pleasures; so the world hates Christians, though it receives no wrong from them, because they set themselves against its pleasures.
The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and the members: so Christians love those that hate them. The soul is enclosed in the body, and yet itself holds the body together; so Christians are kept in the world as in a prison-house, and yet they themselves hold the world together.
The soul though itself immortal dwells in a mortal tabernacle- so Christians sojourn amidst perishable things, while they look for the imperishability which is in the heavens.
The soul when hardly treated in the matter of meats and drinks is improved; and so Christians when punished increase more and more daily. So great is the office for which God has appointed them, and which it is not lawful for them to decline.”
This desire to live the Christian life so as to influence my own world, to be its “soul”, has been the driving passion of my own life.
On October 22, 1978, Pope John Paul II stepped out on to the balcony in St. Peter’s Square and signaled his mission in his first three words, "Be not afraid!"
One of the chief architects of the Second Vatican Council and one of the authors of its extraordinary document on the church in the modern world entitled “Joy and Hope” (Gaudium et Spes,) now occupied the chair of Peter.
History would never be the same.
That history included my own life. I responded to his invitation and still seek to do so ...
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