Thursday, April 11, 2013

Not easy to be a Christian

There are many religions in the world today. And many of them do a good job of bringing the human person closer to knowing God and living according to God's will. Without an apology, I must confess my faith in the true form of Christianity which allows a person to stare at and absorb the sun directly, while other religions provide the refection of the moon or the dim light of the far away stars, neither of which can bring true warmth and light to the believer. Some spiritual movements are like comets and astroids; they visit us periodically under different names with signs and whistles promising new knowledge from the universe beyond, yet end up being short lived empty threats as they fade. 

Do not be fooled and tempted by those selling easy Christianity. A genuine form of Christianity is never without the cross. While it is absolutely true that Christianity brings the joyful Good News of eternal life through faith in the living, resurrected Son of God, this faith is actualized and made real in a full participation of the believer in the Son's life, death and Resurrection. This means Christ must dwell in the believer and empower the believer to love God and others as Christ loves. This indwelling also empowers the believer to carry one's cross daily [Luke 9:23] and give one's life for the other as Christ did. This I base on the teachings of the Church, on the teachings and lives of the Saints, and on Sacred Scripture.

Jesus tells us through St. John: "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends, you are my friends if you do what I command you." [John 15:11-14]. In Matthew 16:24 Jesus tells us, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." In Luke 14:27 he proclaims: "Whoever does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." 

St. Paul tells us of Christ: " ... To know him and the power of his resurrection and sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead." [Philippians 3:10-11] St. Paul also says: "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." [1 Corinthians 1:18].  He also says: "We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles." [1 Corinthians 1:23] In 1 Corinthians 2:2 he proclaims: "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified." Again in Colossians St. Paul teaches us: "Now I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church ... For I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me." [Colossians 1:24,29]

What does all this mean to us as Christians? What we encounter in our daily lives in terms of struggle and cause of pain and anxiety must be embraced as our cross, given to us by God. We must not pretend that we desire this cross, but rather understand that the will of God is adherent to this cross and therefore we embrace it in voluntary surrender to God's will.  Jesus was not thrilled or excited on the Mount of Olives about carrying his cross. He prayed three times for his Father to take His cross away from Him: "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will." [Mathew 26:39] and again: "My Father, if it is possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!" [Matthew 26:42], He tells His three best friends: "My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me." [Matthew 26:38]

In our daily lives we are called to carry our God given cross. For some of us it is in physical form such as cancer, hunger, or torture ... for others in mental form such as verbal abuse, persecution, mockery, belittling, fear, or depression ... for some it is a spiritual cross with constant threats of unbelief, the constant temptation to see ourselves as mere beings rather than children of the Most High, a sense of abandonment by God, and so forth. True Christians turn the other cheek,  forgive a million times, give even when in need, love especially their enemies, conquer evil with good, surrender their will to the will of God and not hold back anything, and conquer themselves and the world with the power of the cross.  True Christians are hard to find. 

Our Lord tells us: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few." [Matthew 7:13-14]

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