At a recent Confirmation mass, I was impressed with the homily given by Bishop Anthony Selvanayagam.He reminded those to be confirmed and the congregation in general, of the very depressing situation in the world today. He lamented that the vast majority of those who call themselves Christians do not know Jesus at all. This ignorance of Jesus among his own followers is the greatest challenge to Christianity in the third millennium.
We resort to all sorts of deeds to please God, deeds which God did not ask, attending church and receiving the sacraments diligently without fail, making pilgrimages to all the holy sites and shrines, burning candles and offering prayers, we fast and abstain, but we fail to do what God has really asked us to do – to love our neighbor.
In fact we need not go round indulging in rituals for God to grant us our petitions as He knows our problems better than we do and He knows what is best for us. According to the bishop,on the final day, God is not going to ask us whether we went to church, received the sacraments, fasted, and burnt candles or how many churches we prayed at. What He will ask us is how we lived by His words during our short stint on earth.
Bishop Anthony drew our attention to the Jesus’Sermon on the Mount regarding reconciling our differences with our neighbor before going to worship God. This is what Jesus taught us:
“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering(Mathew 5:23-24).
The Sermon on the Mount
Yes, many of us harbor so much ill feeling against others and refuse to even talk to them – our children, siblings, parents, relatives and friends. Often we leave them behind in pain and misery but go in search of God. The bishop emphasized that unless we reconcile our differences with them it is meaningless to seek God.
Bishop Anthony’s sharing should prompt us to reflect on our own actions as Christians. How do we treat the poor and oppressed? How do treat our own children and elderly parents? How do we treat the sick and hungry? How do we treat those who yearn for our love and affection? How do we treat those who sin against us? Are we willing to forgive and forget those who hate and even harm us? How generous are we with our wealth and possessions? In short how do we treat our neighbor?
There are three groups of Christians in the world today. Firstly there is a very large group who do not know Jesus truly for what He is. Sad to say, a large number of us belong to this group. We perform all sorts of rituals to please God to gain His blessings but fail to do what He really wants us to.
The second group consists of those who know Jesus reasonably well as they spend many years of their lives studying his words, but refuse to follow those words in their daily living. They are good preachers but not doers. The words of Jesus is meant for others not them. A large number of us, so called practicing Catholics, regrettably fall into this category.
The third group comprises of those who know Jesus and follow Him in a way He wants. They stick by His teachings in everything they do. Unfortunately only a few belong to this group of true followers.
It may timely for us to ponder on our own thoughts and actions to see which of the three groups we belong to. Do we live by the teachings of Jesus? Do we have Christ in our lives? We call ourselves Christians, followers of Christ, but how Christ-like are we in our lives?