Grace to you!
As we come closer to Holy Week, we are confronted with the daring truth of Jesus Christ and the implications for us.
In matters of faith in Christ, there is no middle ground. The identity of Jesus forces us to take a stand; a stand between acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Savior or rejecting his message.
“I was born a Christian or a Catholic, therefore, I remain Catholic,” isn’t necessarily a proof of authentic Christian faith. This is known as cultural religion. It’s holding the form of religion (using a phrase from St. Paul) but denying the power in it.
What makes us Christian? Is it by birthright? If so, we do not have the core identity of our faith-life since our faith is not a biological process—it is a spiritual and voluntary choice for God in Christ.
Read the drama in John 8:31-42. Jesus addressed the Jews who believed in him; “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciple and you will know the truth and truth shall make you free” (Jn 8:31-33).
The people’s reaction to this message is typical of cultural religion. “We are descendants of Abraham.” We can read it also to mean “We are born Catholics. We are born evangelicals.” You can list many other examples like these.
Get this point straight. Jesus isn’t against tradition. Instead, Jesus is opposed to cultural religion which basks in the euphoria of birthright triumphalism.
The conditions, or should I say the demands, of the revelation of Jesus as the Christ, which in itself is salvation, are twofold: faith and abiding in the truth of the faith, what we in Catholic tradition describe as faith working in charity. This is something we choose and accept and live by, not what we are born into, unless we mean spiritual rebirth in baptism.
Our identity as Christians is redemptive but not because we are born and baptized as Christians (a necessary first step – the sacrament of Initiation); nor is it only because we’ve accepted the Word of God and became “new believers” or converts, (yet another necessary first step). It is what is called faith-deepening.
It is a movement from believing in Jesus to accepting the truth he is, and abiding in that truth. The abiding is the faith-deepening which isn’t an isolated event. It involves our entire life, lived in obedience to God’s Word. Day by day, we are introduced into the life of Christ in his body, the Church, and relive the mysteries of God, by the Word and the Sacraments.
As we approach Holy Week, may we allow our faith in Jesus to grow into abiding love for his passion because it is his cross that shatters all the pseudo-security of cultural religion.
We need a faith-alive not a faith-born-into, except in terms of baptism and conscious choice for Christ afterwards.
Praying that we constantly make this choice to abide in Christ. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday, Lent, Week 5: Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95; Jn 8:31-42]
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.