Grace to you!
As we come closer to Holy Week, the daring truth of Jesus Christ as Lord and its implications confront us.
In matters of faith in Christ, there is no middle ground. The identity of Jesus as Christ 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," can't do justice to this truth. It isn't necessarily proof of authentic Christian faith. It is known as cultural religion. It's holding the form of religion but denying its power (using a phrase from St. Paul, 2 Timothy 3:5)
If one's claim to being a believer is by biological birthright, how saving is that faith? Does that person have the core identity of our faith-life in Christ? Christian faith is not by a biological process. One is not born by birth into it. Instead, one chooses it and is born anew through Baptism. The person continues the journey in a deepened relationship with the Lord. It is a spiritual and voluntary choice for God in Christ.
Read the interaction recorded in John 8:31-42. The Lord 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. The Lord isn't against tradition. Instead, he is opposed to cultural religion, which basks in the euphoria of birthright triumphalism to the truth. He rejects the form of worship that is celebrated because it is a birthright by blood.
The conditions, or should I say the demands, of the revelation of Jesus as the Christ, which in itself is salvation, are twofold. They include 1) faith in Christ as Lord, and 2) abiding in the truth of the faith. We, in our Catholic tradition, describe the latter as faith working in charity. It 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. Not because we are born and baptized as Christians (a necessary first step – the sacrament of Initiation). Nor is it only because we have accepted the Word of God and become "new believers" or converts, (yet another necessary step). It is a combination of both being born again in Baptism and living the life of faith, faith-deepening. We are nourished for this deepened life through the other sacraments plus the Word of God, private prayer, and service of love.
It is a movement from believing in Christ 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. We relive the mysteries of God, by the Word and the Sacraments. We become renewed, witnesses of Christ in word and deed.
As we approach Holy Week, may we allow our faith in Jesus to grow into an abiding love for his passion. It is his cross that shatters all the false security of cultural religion.
We need a faith-alive, not a faith-born-into by blood. We need a conscious choice for Christ and his ways.
I am praying that we always make this choice to abide in Christ. His grace is sufficient for us to do so. 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]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.