Monday, November 26, 2018

If I call myself a Christian only because I acknowledge that God exists, it may not mean much.

The challenge of the Christian life is not merely to try to live the values of Christ.  It is to do it by living it deeply, and to truly want to do it at every moment of our lives.  Before Jesus took leave of his apostles prior to his ascension, he left not a request, not a wish, but something akin to his last will and testament.  It is a very heavy and demanding task – it was to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the three persons of the Holy Trinity.  

The tremendous task of doing this – and to do this to ‘all the world’ truly does seem like an onerous task, to say the least.  We may wonder why couldn’t Jesus himself do this and then ascend to heaven, but it does convey the fact that this is the Father’s will.  Wouldn’t it solve so much of the world’s problems with the existence of God?  It must say something, especially if all this while since the ascension, one of the big issues with faith seems to be centered on the existence of God.  Just glancing at the many vitriolic comments made by the many angry atheists online on YouTube posts regarding the spiritual life reveals that there seems to be a simplistic thought – that if God were to simply show himself to the world, then everybody would just, as it were, fall in line and there would be no argument, wrangling or disputes of his existence, and the world will find the peace that seems to be missing.

Would that it was that easy.  Miracles themselves do not cause one to believe in God and change from being atheist to believer.  In October 13, 1917, in Fatima, Portugal, an estimated 100,000 people witnessed the miracle of the sun and not all of them became believers.  Even if God were to manifest himself to all his people, it wouldn’t change hearts that have chosen to be hardened.  So if God were to show himself to the world, would this truly be the golden key to the golden question?  Does the answer lie simply in God’s existence?  Would all disharmony really be quashed just because God’s existence is irrefutable and undeniably clear?  We may be a bit naïve if we think that this is the solution.  

It really is much more than the mere existence of God that is at issue here.  As Jesus said, when the Son of Man comes, would he find any faith on earth? This is, and always will be, the kernel of the whole Jesus endeavor – to engender faith in humanity.  Let us be clear that faith isn’t just a tacit belief in the existence of God alone, but in devoting our lives to and loving this God who truly exists.  Just to acknowledge that God exists is ‘entry level’ to a life in God, but it doesn’t in any way reveal that this God whom I admit exists, is the one whom I give my ultimate obeisance to, and whom I make the centre of my universe.

And we will still merely be ‘entry level’ Christians if the existence of God is what makes me go to Mass each Sunday without fail, but in my heart, I know that I am not loving this God with, as Jesus said, my heart, my soul and my mind.  Loving God is what makes one a true disciple, whilst just believing that God exists makes me a mere theist.  Jesus did not just ask that his disciples make theists of all the nations. 

The liturgical year is coming to an end, and as I told my congregation over the weekend, the year end in the secular world sees many employees at this time evaluating their work that they did in the past twelve months.  They would have KPIs (Key Performance Indicator) that they ought to have met, and this would serve to gauge how they performed in their work.  

Certainly, our Christian life is not a mere performance, but we have a standard to gauge our Christian lives by. It would mean very little if we merely pegged our lives against the belief that God exists.  But it will make a whole lot of difference if we knew that this God that exists also loves us unconditionally, and that we as his sons and daughters, are to live in such a way that we are constantly returning this love to him by the kind of lives that we live and the love that we show one another. 

Another useful gauge is Matthew 25. Let it always serve as a sober reminder of the ultimate measure of a true Christian – one who does everything he does because he sees in the other the face of Christ.  

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