Now here’s an interesting statistic. Currently the proportion of Christians in the world today is about a third, that is 2.4 billions. So what is going to happen to the other 5 billions, given that the New Testament assures us that baptism into Christ is a sine qua non of salvation? I hesitate to criticise the Almighty which is a dangerous step. But what we see here is a God who created a vast number of human beings with the intention that they should live in blessed eternity with him. But in fact two thirds of them won’t make it: they will live out infinity either in some limbo or in the punishment of hell. Most of them will not have encountered Christianity, let alone had a realistic opportunity to consider it. And of course we need to count in the whole lineage of homo sapiens who have preceded us – over perhaps 200,000 years.
If all that is true we are talking about a very odd God. He seems to have got his sums wrong. I cannot avoid the thought that he must be an unjust God – or that his creation idea was basically a failure.
Fortunately that is not like God at all. The truth is that every human being has been redeemed by Christ – backwards to the first human, forward to the last. And with that gift comes another one: he has left us free to choose. The choice is straightforward: either we choose to love or we choose to reject love. Christ himself explains this (Matthew 25) when he speaks of how the blessed loved the hungry and the sick and those in need. And when they said they had never met him he replied that what they had given to the least person had been given to him. And that test of love applies equally from the most important person in the world to the beggar on the street corner. You and me.
Is Christ’s grace like a kind of whitewash covering up our sinfulness? No, the love we choose is our love and it is Christ’s love. We become truly holy through his love. Paul tells us: “I live, now not I, Christ lives in me.” A mystery indeed, but a wonderful one.
And that love includes loving ourselves. Search for the truth, search for the good. And Christ is there. As he was with Socrates and Aristotle as they began to unravel the nature of the good life. Benedict XVI, before he became pope, described Socrates as a kind of prophet of Christ.
Many of you will be parents, so you know what extremes you went through to help the children to find their way to maturity. And how, if they wobbled on the rails, you would find any excuse to get them back on track. God is the father after whom all fatherhood is named. Do you think he does any less for each of his children?