JOURNEY OF FAITH
Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J
Table of Contents
“It was at Antioch that the disciples of Jesus were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26) The early Christians were known as disciples of Jesus. To be a Christian then is not just to know about Jesus. Knowledge about Jesus can be found in the Bible. But the Bible is not a Christian. Knowledge about Jesus an also be found in the Catechism. But the Catechism is not a Christian. All the knowledge we have about Jesus can be put on a silicon chip. But a silicon chip is not a Christian.
To be a Christian is to be a disciple of Jesus, to be committed to Jesus. Since Jesus is true God, the commitment to Jesus is the total commitment of the First Commandment. “You shall love Jesus with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” St. Paul expressed this commitment to Jesus very dramatically, “Life to me, of course, is Christ.” (Phil.1:21) “For I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish, if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him.” (Phil. 3:9) “I have been crucified with Christ, and I live now, not my own life, but the life of Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20)
Does this commitment to Jesus seem too radical? Well consider this. God has given me an intellect to know and a free will to choose. And God honors the exercise of free will. What we freely choose we can have. And we must choose. Free will is not only our greatest dignity; it is also our most awesome responsibility.
Terrified by this responsibility some people try to avoid committing themselves. They try to “play it cool,” to “hang loose” and not to commit themselves to anyone or to anything. Others, afraid to live their own lives, live vicariously. They watch other people live on the TV, in the movies, at the ball park, or in books.
But life is not a spectator sport. We must participate. We must choose. “Not to decide is to decide.” It is possible to abstain from choosing only by the refusal to make acts of the will, which refusal is itself an act of the will. Not to choose is to choose the worse possibility, which is to commit ourselves to nothing.
Whether we realize it or not we are committed. So the question is not “Am I committed?” The question rather is, “To whom or to what am I committed?” And when we consider the alternatives to the commitment to Jesus, we realize what a privilege and blessing it is to be a Christian, and to be committed to Jesus. What are the alternatives to Jesus; if not Jesus what?
The first possibility, of course, is myself. I could be committed to myself. Many people are. Preoccupation with self is one of the characteristics of the culture in which we live. Today there is a multiplication of self-awareness self-improvement, self-fulfillment programs all promising to bring perfection, maturity and happiness. This do-it-yourself fad is based on the belief in the unlimited perfectibility of human nature by its own efforts.
If I am not committed to myself I could be committed to another merely human person. It could be the leader of a religious cult, a military leader, or a superstar of TV, the movies or the sports world. If not to an individual person, I could be committed to a group of persons, the survival of which is considered to be the ultimate good. As Hitler once said, “Life is the nation. The individual must die anyway. Beyond the life of the individual is the life of the nation.” Many people have made the total commitment to the classless society of atheistic communism.
I could be committed not to myself, or a human person or a group of human persons but to a thing. Anything. My thing. My work, my talent, my career. It could be wealth, health, fame, pleasure, prestige, sex, alcohol or drugs.
Or I could be committed to the absurd. I could be committed to that which has been defined as the “coming together of man’s insatiable desire for life to make sense, and life’s inexorable refusal to do so.” Or as Shakespeare expressed it, “Life is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”
To whom am I committed? When we realize that we are committed and then consider the alternatives to commitment to Jesus, we see the wisdom in the words of Simon Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have come to know that you are the Son of God.”
This commitment to Jesus is not the negative caricature which thinks that we should be willing to suffer hell here in order to avoid hell hereafter. What a caricature of Christianity! What a gross injustice to God! This commitment to Jesus is a positive affirmation of life. “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” Firmly committed to Jesus we are free with the freedom of the children of God.
Commitment to Jesus brings with it security. Everyone today is looking for security. We seek security in wealth, health, weapons, laws, insurance, crystal balls and in the stars. But there is no real security in this life. Life is a risk, an adventure. The only security possible in this life is the inner security that comes from commitment to Jesus. We do not know what tomorrow holds but we know Who holds tomorrow.
The commitment to Jesus is the greatest prescription ever given for physical, mental and spiritual health and happiness, here as well as hereafter. It structures our lives, unifies our day to day decisions and brings with it a sense of fulfillment. It is not only expressive of the person I am, it is also creative of the person I will become.
This fulfillment, however, involves a paradox. The paradox is that we find our life by losing it. But we foolishly think that we are fulfilling ourselves by self-gratification and self-indulgence, by receiving and possessing. The opposite is true. We fulfill ourselves by giving and sharing, by going out of ourselves in the love and service of our neighbor.
This paradox is expressed beautifully in the prayer of St. Francis, “Lord, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, in pardoning that we are pardoned, and in dying that we are born to eternal life.” Isn’t it strange that we can say this prayer so often, and sing it so beautifully, and still not get the point?
How can we know to whom or to what we are committed? Well, what would you hate most to lose? Or what do you spend most of your time, talents and treasure on? Where is your heart? Where your heart is there is your treasure.
Finally, this total commitment to Jesus is not a one-shot deal. It is the work of a lifetime. To will once is not to will forever. We must recommit ourselves everyday. Perhaps, only at the end of our life will we be able to say with St. Paul, “I live now, not my own life, but the life of Christ who lives in me.”
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