Mark Pickup

September 12, 2011

In his book The Yes of Jesus Christ, Pope Benedict wrote: "We are not allowed neutrality when faced with the question of God. We can only say yes or no, and this with all the consequences extending right down to the smallest details of life."

The great American Catholic theologian Bishop Fulton Sheen concurred: "To the eyes of faith only two classes of people exist: those who say 'yes' to God and those who say 'no' to God." In an age of relativism - such as the one in which we live - this is an important but unpopular spiritual reality.

My experience is that most people say "no" to Christ based on moral grounds rather than spiritual grounds. They are afraid to say "yes" to Christ because they are afraid he will demand something of them. And he will. It is true that Christ accepts and forgives sinners but he also calls each of them away from sin toward holiness.


Holiness can only be achieved through Christ and not by ourselves.

Christ wants nothing less than our total devotion to him. He wants our first, our best and our highest love, for that is how Christ loves us. He is a demanding lover.

The human heart desires perfect love both in the giving and the accepting of it - but such divine and sublime love is beyond the human heart to fathom or create. God is love. Inasmuch as God is in us we find ourselves drawn toward his perfect love.

Make no mistake: All genuine and perfect love originates with God. It is never generated by us. We are hampered from accepting or giving perfect love by our egos, self-conceit, disordered affections, bitterness or a multitude of worldly distractions that stop Christ from being our first love.

Self-abnegation is difficult. To willfully die to ourselves so we can live in Christ is a frightening, high-stakes proposition. We do not know where it will lead. Yet this is what St. Paul speaks about: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2.20).


If Christ gave himself for us then should we not be willing to do the same for him? This is the pinnacle of perfect love between the Creator and the created. This is what it means to say "yes" to Christ and surrender completely to that decision.

Christ wants us to love him more than we love ourselves. When that happens, perfect love is finally possible. We may not even know that we draw nearer to it and are surprised when we sense the first inklings of Christ's perfect love beginning to transform us.

What we do with Christ's love toward us will determine our ability to love him and other people. Those wonderful twinges and inklings call the beloved to begin the arduous spiritual path toward discovering the real meaning of life. It is found in Christ.

My only brother was recently killed in a car accident. I was asked to identify his body. The medical examiner ushered me into a room to see my brother's battered remains.

As I looked at the lifeless corpse before me, I was struck anew at the fragility and transience of life. One minute the man was casually driving his car listening to music on the radio or whistling a tune, and a split second later his life on earth was over. All his earthly hopes and plans vanished instantly like a puff of smoke into the silence of death. His new reality is eternity.

Seen through the lens of my grief, it becomes abundantly clear that saying "yes" or "no" to Christ is not a choice to be made by every man. It is the choice of every man affecting everything down to the smallest details of life (as Pope Benedict reminds us).

The harsh reality of death throws down the question in no uncertain terms and demands an answer from each of us: What do you choose? Yes or no to Christ?

As Pope Benedict reminds us, there is no neutrality when faced with the question of God.

Did my brother say "yes" to Christ? That is not for me to say. Only he and Jesus know. I pray he has at last entered into Christ's perfect love.