By Canon Gerry Conroy
As the war in the Ukraine drags on, Russia’s gamble is entering its endgame. The gamble it bet on was that the West was so caught up in its own interests that it would not be willing to pay the price of its own skin to defend the freedom of Ukraine. The sacrifices entailed to support Ukraine against Russia are only now starting to hit home in the west and, we are told, will continue to increase on the coming months. Not only energy prices will grow, but food shortages will also impact on us as well as the rest of the world. The gamble Russia bet on was the moral disorientation in the west; in other words it raises the question of whether the price for doing what is right is worth paying. I can understand why Russia should think that it was a good bet to gamble on that. When you look at the state of the west, its moral compass seems to be all over the place; it has lost its sense of direction, it cannot agree on a meaning for life or a shared purpose in life. Certainly many think that traditional morality does not compensate for the serious effort it requires. Individual freedoms on the other hand are worth while striving for, but they seem so self-serving and inward looking that even there the bar is set quite low on the sacrifices people are willing to put up with to ensure the freedom of others. There are some who are willing to make the effort, but where to begin in the midst of all the confusion that surrounds us; the chaos of a world without a shared purpose or understanding of life makes it extremely difficult to know where to begin or how to proceed when it comes to moral questions.
Both the first and the second reading this Sunday hold up before us the end of life and the promise of eternal life. There we find the Christian faith’s answer to the question of the compensation due for the serious effort required to live a moral life. What has all the effort been about? It has been about gaining that reward for our efforts, the reward according to what we deserve as the reading says and joining Christ where he is, standing at God’s right hand in the glory of heaven. The Gospel also speaks of what we have to look forward to when death comes for us. But it speaks of it in a much more personal way. It speaks of something that, even in a time when people have largely abandoned religion, they still intuit: namely that if heaven exists it is about the people who are there, much more than the possessions we seem to value so much here on earth. Christ’s prayer for us makes this point so clearly. What is important in our life here on earth and in eternal life is the union we have with people and we know that such union is the fruit of love. Just as eternal life and the gates of heaven were thrown open by Christ, so the moral confusion of life, the chaos in which we find ourselves, is resolved when we turn to Christ and instead of looking to ourselves for understanding and direction, look to him. It is in looking to our union with Christ that life is given direction and meaning, because only in him has life overcome death; only in him do we find something solid enough to overcome death and to be a steady foundation on which to build a moral life that leads us to the freedom that the children of God alone know.