Something to Die For
On election night, I was at Mass. I'd already dropped off my early ballot (which was too late to be early), and at that point there was only waiting: I'd go to work the next morning and check the internet to see the results, if the looks on the faces of my coworkers didn't tell me first. I'm a teacher, so I guess the youth were on my mind: besides, one of the altar servers is one of my students, and the fact that it was his birthday lingered in my thoughts along with the other changes rumbling in the undercurrent of my Junior classroom—getting drivers' licenses, losing braces, getting into car accidents, being less than a year away from legal adulthood. Every day I spend two hours in a room with people whose eyes and souls are all their own, people on the long cusp of discerning who they are.
And the night, like the following morning, had the damp feeling that, no matter how things went, no one would be really jubilant: in a culture where we pay our desires to feed on our souls, neither politician will save us.
Anyway, at some point between the preparation of the gifts and the Consecration, I had a thought which hasn't left me.
Give them something to die for.
I don't know where we lost it along the way, but at some point Catholics forgot we could tell people that they were made for glory.
I don't know why we have hushed ourselves, why we think we don't have the right to tell people that they are lovely and beloved as they are; that women don't have to pretend to be men—and men don't have to have to massacre their biology to be women—in order to become real; that following the law inside of themselves is better than breaking themselves against it, because the law inside of them says that they were made for God: for Love, immortality, glory beyond description.
Why is it that it those who preach destruction get all the rhetoric of freedom and affirmation? When did we forget that the point of virtue is to make us strong enough to be joyful—the way a stone, released, zooms to the ground? When did we forget that the Spirit welling to a spring inside of us is given that others may come and drink?
The youth were on my mind as I followed the thought that had come to me, but I guess this is for everyone: for all our brothers and sisters who hunger for truth and justice and love and flourishing and freedom, who see that the world is broken and want to hurl themselves into the cause of making it right again. We are doing them a disservice if we don't realize and live the goodness of what we profess: that purity ennobles them, that humility frees them; that discipline and obedience transform the child pounding the keys into the pianist rippling with symphonies; that Jesus the Man loves them with a human heart, and is rich beyond all their longing.
Give them something to die for.
Ask them what they care about. Affirm the goodness of the things they fight for, or of the reasons they fight for them. And then, with wonder in your own eyes, give them some little glimpse of the world where the lion does at last lie down with the lamb because a Man died to save us all and to clothe us with rejoicing.
We have been given hope as our heritage: woe to us if we squander it. The light which enlightens every man may perhaps only enter their world through us. Perhaps we are their only window into God. Perhaps we are the only lampstand in their life on which the Spirit burns.
Let us try to become saints, if only to show them some particle of the joy of God.