What does Jesus Christ mean to you?

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I can tell you what I do as a person. Perhaps, I can even tell you why I do certain things a certain way because I am a Catholic. However, it will be difficult for me to give a two -lines answer to the question “What does Jesus Christ mean to me?” to a non-Christian on the spot.

At the 69th Ontario Catholic Women’s League Convention yesterday, Bishop McGrattan , Bishop of Peterborough, talked about the Year of Mercy and what it means for members of CWL. One of the points he asked us to think about is the need to evangelize. Of course, to evangelize, one has to engage someone else in a conversation on Jesus Christ, but how many of us can readily give a concise answer to the question: What does Jesus Christ mean to you?

 

So, after pondering on this for some time, I think I will say:

If spirituality means living the tensions of life, then being a Christian means living those tensions by following Christ’s example. In order to do that, one must get to know Christ and his Church.

God reveals himself to us in many ways. He shows us who he is through his creations. Sometimes, he talks to us directly. Other times, he might give us subtle hints. These revelations are, unfortunately, often missed. Fortunately for us, God also gives us his divine revelation through Christ. Now, here is someone’s life that we have a record of in our Bible. The teachings of Jesus Christ are studied and contemplated on through and through by the Church, which are presented to us as our Church teachings. Living the tensions of life, therefore, gets easier, if we pay attention to the Word and get to know our Church teachings.

During the past December, when my family was confronted with the impending death of my father, my children asked if we should carry on with our usual joyous celebration of Christmas. It was a very confusing time. On one hand, we had our Christmas celebrations planned out and were looking forward to the excitement, the anticipation, our Christmas experience at church, and our Christmas concert (which happened to be our 100th sharing) at a local seniors’ residence. On the other hand, we were constantly waiting by the phone, waiting for updates on my father’s condition, or sharing our sadness with relatives and close friends. Talking about tensions of life! Of course, God seems to be always ahead of us… The topic of my December session at my CPM course happened to be “The Mystery of Christ.” A section of the course was on how Jesus taught us to be human and another section on the meaning of his death. After taking in all that I could that session, it was surprisingly easy for me to announce to my family that it would be even more important for us to celebrate Christmas during those agonizing weeks. Without Christ, there would be no hope. Without Christ, there would be no meaning to our lives.

So…What does Jesus Christ mean to you?

 

 

Motivation for being Catholic

It is interesting to read about the interview that Pope Benedict XVI gave in Oct 2015 that he was deeply concerned why any Christian should bother keeping up or where will be the motivation for missionary work, when document from Vatican II state that there can be salvation for all. Andrew Brown further wrote a piece on Pope Benedict’s “deep double crisis”, titled “If a former pope says non-Catholics can go to heaven, why be Catholic?”

Perhaps, the point to be a Christian is not just for salvation, but for us to be adopted as children of God who are happy to follow Christ. Through Him we learn God’s love and how to live with all the tensions of life, guided by that love.

When I wrote the blog in January How to Evangelize?the second step in the plan was to show God is love. God sent his Son to us as the solution to the powers of evil. The stone that the builders rejected then became the corner stone of the Church.   The Church gathers us and unites us. “Through Baptism we are formed in the likeness of Christ… partaking of the body of the Lord in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, we are taken in communion with Him and with one another.” (Lumen Gentium, paragraph 7.)  This family, this Body of Christ, this Church, has sacraments where God communicates with us and helps us discover the hidden treasures of His grace and love. Love is the answer for our human struggles. Evangelization then becomes spreading the message that the Church has the answer for us to better deal with the tensions of life.

We may convince others that by being part of the Catholic family, we learn from the Way, the Truth and the Life of Christ which helps us with our struggles in life. The sacraments and our Church teachings are doors to get to know God, who has the power to salvation to all mankind.  When one is part of this family, conversion is bound to happen; especially when one receives  the gifts of the Holy Spirit from Baptism and Confirmation, and the nourishment from Holy Communion. If people love the idea of salvation, they ought to love God who makes that possible. If they love God enough, they will be willing to be his instruments to spread that love and being part of the Catholic community with all the sacraments that will help them in their endeavours.

How to Evangelize?

On Jan 13th, Fr. Dwight Longenecker  @dlongenecker1 wrote 10 Reasons Why Catholics Don’t Evangelize. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2016/01/ten-reasons-why-catholics-dont-evangelize.html

I think his #6 Ignorance, or (I think) feeling ignorant, is really the main reason why Catholics don’t evangelize. At least, ignorance will explain the other 9 points. However, the article screams out another question:

How do we actually evangelize?

We have all heard that it is necessary to evangelize, but so many of us are cradle Catholics. It’s not like we have watched someone evangelizing to ourselves. So, how do we start?  Assuming that one can put aside the feeling of ignorance in our own church teachings, where do we start? I don’t really think shouting on top of your lungs at a busy road intersection will work.

I am definitely not qualified to answer this on my own, but I happened to have read a few articles/webpage/book in the last few days that when I put the information all together, it presents itself like a nice if-or flowchart-type mindset of instructions to evangelize. Let me share it here.

 

  1. I have this gut feeling that there might be more introverts than extroverts among all Catholics. (This might actually be a good pew research topic.) Anyway, if you are an introvert, you really probably won’t go out to the street and meet a stranger and talk to that person about God and religion. So, it looks like the best way is for you to go out there and perform some good works, be it volunteering or donating. Basically, anyway to show how a Christian should act. Let your action shows God’s love. After all, God is love and that’s the message that you want to present to someone who has never met God.
  2. Now, you might have the curiosity of others and they want to know why you act in the way you do. When this opportunity arises, talk about God is love and God loves them.
  3. If you still have their attention, then go ahead and talk about whether one can be “good” without God. Really, tell them why you need God to guide you to do “good”. Personal stories are the most attractive. Let them reflect. (Here’s @catholiccom article on “Can you be Good without God?” http://www.catholic.com/blog/todd-aglialoro/can-you-be-good-without-god )
  4. If they conclude that they need God, then proceed and talk about Christ.
  5. Now, if your aim is to invite the other to join your Catholic church, talk about how we meet Christ at mass, how God forgives us when we join in communion and participate in the Eucharistic meal, how we are the Body of Christ, and how we are embraced by his love among the rituals at mass.
  6. If you need to invite Catholics who left the church earlier to come back and join us again, you will need to talk about the difference between a theist and a Christian, how being a Christian means being with people whom we can see, even if it means standing among people that you like or not. (It might be worth reading Rolheiser, Ronald. The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality. New York: Doubleday, 1999. Print. P. 61-62.)

 

I know this seems like a set of simple instructions, but I think having instructions is better than not having any at all. At least, I think it’s worth a try. I am going to try this for the next few years.  Perhaps, I will write another blog a few years down the road; Or, I might just write another set of instructions.