There is, perhaps, nothing more frustrating than stating something plainly when instructing someone, and having them fail to grasp it – particularly if it is simply a refusal to accept it or a refusal to consider that the one teaching may actually know more about something than the one being taught. Think of practical experiences on the job, in the classroom, even in the home. Sometimes it calls for almost superhuman patience, in going over and over something and continually hoping the one being shown a task or formula will be open to following instructions.
Recent events have underscored how frustratingly ignorant , on a grand scale, our culture and society have become in terms of our understanding of who Jesus truly is, and what Christianity truly means; or even more specifically what Catholicism is all about. We have seen how politicians try to square their Catholic faith with party policy, often with the policy being in complete opposition to the teachings of their faith; and yet we hear a response of ‘not wanting to force their beliefs on others’ or ‘well, I AM Catholic, BUT….” Or that tired old song of ‘separation of church and state’. (They often forget that principal was meant to preserve the practice of faith from interference by the state)
Many people, including Catholics, point to other religions and their prime tenets and then back to Catholicism saying, ‘well, their basic teachings are all the same’, and then considering Jesus as simply a wise philosopher and teacher, a good holy man who was accepting of all behaviours and actions.
Such of course, is not the case; and nowhere in Scripture is this more explicit than in this Sunday’s gospel passage from St. John. (14:1-12). We hear the words of Jesus, speaking to his closest followers, His Apostles, about His true nature, and despite that, the Apostles refuse to open themselves to what He has taught them all along – they look upon Him as a ‘great teacher’ , a ‘good rabbi’ and fail to grasp that He is much, much more.
He tells them about the way to the Father; Thomas says ‘show us the way’ – in other words, teach us some technique or principal; Jesus says, ‘I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life’. Philip says, ‘show us the Father and we will be satisfied’ – in other words, manifest something outside of yourself to show us that what you teach is true; Jesus responds, ‘ I Am in the Father and the Father is in me,” , clearly identifying Himself in complete union with God, as God, in God.
The nature of both of these answers is a relationship; He and the Father are one because they are in complete union. He is the Way to the Father because He and Father are in complete relationship. But He takes it a step further – He says, ‘if you know me you will know my Father also,’. He is straightforward here – that His followers will come to know God because He, Jesus, is God.
Catholicism, Christianity is not a philosophy or a method to follow to achieve God, or simply a school for improving one’s life. Ultimately Christianity is a relationship with God, a God who enters into our humanity in the person of Jesus Christ – not a simple teacher or wise man or holy leader – it is a relationship with God Himself in Jesus. That relationship is, at its very core, how we become what we were meant to be, more than we are; we become united intimately to the Creator, as opposed to living as one of His creatures; we become a sign of His presence to all people.
But the only way we can become a sign of His presence to all people is if we carry that relationship we have with Him and He with the Father into all aspects of our life – not just in church, not just in our homes or rooms, not just in some quiet, silent corner removed from every other facet of our thoughts and words and actions.
We must reflect who we profess Jesus to be – and if we profess Him to be something other than who He said He was Himself, than we are not truly Christians. We simply adopt some Christian ‘philosophies’, which can be discarded on a whim when they fail to be convenient to us.
By its very nature, that relationship of love we have with Him must be present in everything we do, everywhere we are – whether in private or in the public arena. It means nothing to treat others in our own social circles or homes as we would like to be treated, if we do not carry that relational attitude into everything we do – including our workplaces, including our schools, including the public and political forums that we find ourselves in.
We can call ourselves ‘friends’ of Jesus, and follow Him in our private lives; but we cannot call ourselves brothers and sisters of Jesus if we reject Him in our public lives because it is ‘inconvenient’ or might not be ‘how others think’.
Being told to keep our faith to ourselves and then being criticized for ‘not acting very Christian’ in public is perhaps one of the most oxymoronic statements of our current culture.
It is not a matter of seeking confrontation. It is a matter of witness – living out our relationship with Our God, the one who invites us into a deeply personal, intimate and lived relationship; a relationship of truth with all of our brothers and sisters; a relationship of love and compassion with Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!