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Unconsummated lives

In the second chapter of “the Restoration of Christian Culture,” aptly titled “The Air Conditioned Holocaust,” John Senior wrote, “Archaeologists rate a culture by the quality of its ordinary pots and bottles, not just by its ‘serious’ art but the everyday utensils preserved by the unprejudiced democracy of its dumping grounds… If future generations exist and think of us at all, they will say, digging in our ruins, ‘this is a people who lived unconsummated lives.” His meaning is deeper than apparent on the surface, I think. What does consummation mean? Yes, the first image that came to your mind was probably of a groom carrying his bride over the threshold on his honeymoon. That may be the most perfect mental image, because consummation has to do with bringing something to perfection. But something that matters. Something of value. Something like life or love. It is a pinnacle experience which by no means suggests the end of the matter. One consummates a marriage on the honeymoon bed. A child  consummates Christmas Morning by tearing into the prettily wrapped presents beneath the tree to finally, finally see what is inside (and then by going to Mass!). One consummates a mortgage by signing his name two hundred times and then receiving the long coveted key to the front door, and then by sticking the key into the door and turning it.

What did Senior mean by stating matter of factly that our lives are unconsummated? In the next paragraph he says that it wasn’t long ago that our grandparents “lived for something other than themselves…” Without getting into whether he was specifically thinking of rampant consumer culture, disposable plastic utensils (including straws), or the Me Generation, it is clear that we have become what my small group leader at the Army captain’s career course called “self-licking ice cream cones.” In short, we have stacked so much “stuff” on top of the things that truly matter, that we’ve lost them in the trash pile. I think at this point that there are stark differences between living “the happy life” as opposed to “the meaningful life” or even “the examined life.” If you have browsed at some lines among the Great Books of the Western World, you may have come across the concept of “the good life” and continuing discussion on what that truly is. Jesus was called good, and he singled out his rich young accuser and interrogated him. “Why do you call me good?” he responded to the question of what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.

“None is good except God alone,” our Lord told him, then rattled off a list of commandments in response to his question.  It is hard to imagine Jesus being startled by a response, possessing foreknowledge as he did, along with the ability to read our souls.”

“I have kept those commandments since my youth,” the rich young ruler replied. Jesus seems to take pause at this. And this is critical because you and I are that rich young ruler. What happened that day? Jesus turns toward us, his Sacred Heart inflamed with love for us and says, “Yes, I’ve seen you struggling to master my commandments. I’ve cheered your victories in self-mastery and picked you up and dusted you off when you battled for the good. But if you want to settle the matter, if you truly want to know how to keep my attention, then shed everything. Everything. Any claim you have on person or thing. Let them go. Give them away. I will supply everything you need when you need it. Leave it all behind and follow me.”

We walk away sad because we are very rich.

Or are we? Is this love more valuable than silver or gold? Is communion with God more beautiful than flawless diamonds? Then why have we lost sight of our calling, covered as it has become by plastic cutlery, styrofoam packaging, and water bottles? For us, the consummated life is nothing, if it is not a mystical union with the Lord who still waits in that silent space before the “big reveal.”

“Give all that worthless stuff away, I’m what you want. Come to me…”

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