By Bro. Ronnie Caballero, BCBP Makati
“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. For it is written ”I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-20)
On a wonderful crisp January morning in Lipa, I hosted a European friend to a game of golf. As we approached hole number 5, I exclaimed “ I call this the chapel hole!” “Why?”, my friend Erich said. Because you’ll be hitting your golf ball towards a chapel on a hill right behind the green. To me, it was an exquisite hole because it framed the church so well, the ascending fairway surrounded by lush trees with the church tower dominating the background proudly with the cross.
“Are you a Christian?”, I inquired. “Yes, I am a Lutheran, but I don’t believe in Jesus. I don’t believe he is the son of God.. I don’t believe in religion. I’m too scientific to accept these as truth, he said as a matter of fact.”
Because I had known him through previous social conversations I had been impressed by his intellectual credentials and professional background. I was totally unprepared for this statement. I decided to let the matter go for now as we were in the middle of a game and frankly I was shocked to hear a real live rejection of Jesus ringing in my ears. In fact I hooked my drive into the trees after I heard that. No, I did not hit him with my driver as you may suspect. I just made a mental footnote to take it up on our next game together.
Before getting to the golf course he had shared how worried he was of how Europe was crumbling in many ways. He called it similar to a possible fall of the Roman Empire. It concerned him what kind of world his only teenage son would be living in, devoid of many decades of gentle civilization and impressive economic progress. There was this general dread of decline that worried him.
I told him that I read somewhere that most what modern civilization experiences and progress had been mainly done through strong Christian influence. And he agreed, but still he says it is not enough to make him believe in God.
Having been trained in evangelization, I knew that the last thing I would do was to engage him in a heated debate about the existence of God. What mattered is at least we ARE friends and that he listened to me. Next, an intellectual approach would not work since he already brushed off religion as “unscientific,” which in reality is an intellectual error. But I will not go there now.
What matters is that our families know each other and they can somehow experience Christianity through our home, our conversations and by example, He had mentioned his concerns about his young teenager, so we do have common ground to share. In other words, I do have an opening to talk about Christian life.
Jesus appeared to the 11 and said to them, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16)
Now this statement of Jesus in Mark was perhaps the reason I hooked my drive into the trees. How can a “former Christian” risk condemnation? Perhaps this is also why we need both intellect (knowledge of Scriptures) and emotion (a heart for mission) which drives us to stay motivated to make Jesus known to others and for them to value salvation for eternity.
One Sunday, I had forgotten something in the sacristy of our chapel so I walked back through a Sunday mass and the homily was being given. In the Sacred Heart chapel (Rockwell), we have what we call a spillover area that literally is outside the four walls of the chapel but behind the main entrance so you can see the congregation in the main chapel. Big LED monitors and an excellent sound system covers this area.
But despite that I was shocked to see that it was like a pre-departure airport lounge where people were engaged in casual conversations, not in whispers, but loud. And I even saw an adult man playing a computer game on his phone! Now ask yourself: how do you feel about this?
Knowing this area, as I serve here as a Eucharistic minister, I know that communion lines in this area are long and crowded, so it makes me wonder what really is going on among this crowd.
Of course, of that crowd of more than 250+ people in that spillover area, there are certainly a good number who are outstanding Catholics, not just standing-outside!!
Now, this is why we have the New Evangelization. We need a higher awareness of what is going on in a mass. A higher appreciation for what it means to receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. A sharper understanding of the Sacraments and how they bring us to a deeper level in our relationship with Jesus.
Evangelization should make us think, pray and feel for our families, friends, the laity and the unchurched. We certainly cannot just stand around, concerned only about our personal spiritual well-being. Catholicism is not a private matter. It thrives only in a community setting.
Regarding one of the latest letters from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), journalist John Nery of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (January 29,2019) highlighted this statement:
“To the sharp daggers piercing the Church (from the current leadership in government), the bishops’ response is humility and renewal. When people do not understand our essential doctrines, we have also ourselves to blame. It could also mean we have failed in our preaching perhaps we have not been effective enough in our catechesis about the faith.”
The truth is we both bear the blame equally, the bishops and the laity, We both need to get our act together. We, the laity, as witnesses, and they the bishops as the main teachers of the truth, through the magisterium.
We really should not keep quiet about our faith because of an objective truth of the Gospel. To me this is the bedrock of every evangelizer… the Gospel says we need to be saved and Jesus, by His sacrifice, has saved us. Jesus is already victorious. And Jesus will not be denied victory at the end of time.
We know that at the Second Coming of Jesus, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of the Father.” ( Philippians 2 10-11). The final victory will cover all mankind.
This is as clear as day! We need not be afraid. Even though it may seem that corrupt and evil secular, materialistic and godless world seems to hold sway in the world nowadays. Even though the Church may have its crisis, even though European churches are empty and Mass-goers in America seem to be in decline.
There is this objective truth that does not change. There is another spiritual world where our King reigns in all His power. We should never stop proclaiming that Jesus is Lord. I believe in Jesus!
# # #