21 JANUARY 2012. Today religion and religious freedom are continually under attack. I say "today" as if this is a new development, but it is not. The term "today," instead, focuses the attention to the real and present problem that confronts all the faithful. While not new, nor novel, the attack on the Church, the faithful, and the credo are here--today--in our midst.
Recently, a video has swept the web, with more than 15 million views. It is titled: Why I hate religion, but love Jesus. The lyrical presentation and choreography are produced with a high enough quality, blended with background music to create at atmosphere of something prophetic, to give the video an overall persuasive feel. But the truth, is not present in what you see.
The premise of the video is that Jesus came to destroy religion, a merely human contraption of rules, hypocrisy, and, ultimately, contradiction to true faith. By his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, Jesus has set all the world free from sin and death, making the human convention of religion unnecessary: all that is necessary, so the video unwinds, is faith in Christ.
Our Dominican brethren at Godzdogz have posted the video and several responsive videos that rightly point out the several flaws in the Jesus-is-opposed-to-religion argument (including a particularly good video from Fr. Pontifex, of phatmass.com).
However, what strikes me is the tenor of the position laid out by the video, now viral, is that each of us is sovereign of our faith, with nothing else necessary--so gently goes the closing lines of the video: "Jesus said, 'It is finished.' And, I believe Him."
Holiness--a call given to each of us by Christ Himself--is hard. Hardest thing I have every striven to achieve. And I, not unlike the great mass of faithful, both achieve holiness and fail miserably in that pursuit each day. Failing more often and frequently than the conversion. But, that does not mean that the rules that define holiness are somehow inapplicable if I love Christ and believe in Him.
Spirituality without religion is nothing more than self-affirmation wrapped up in a search, genuine or merely imagined, for something greater than ourselves. There is no spirituality without religion. Jesus did not leave the world after His resurrection with a message to passively await His return. Nor did he say, "each of you decide for yourselves the best way to find Me."
He said, "do this in memory of me." Lk 22:19. He said, "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." Mt 28:19-20. He said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Mk 12:31.These are the commands that Christ gave to His faithful, the Church; commands that we still are called to carry out today.
Religion is not contrary to Jesus, and Jesus is not contrary to religion. More than human invention, religion is ordained by God for humanity. God knows the failures of men, religious and otherwise, and the many evils that have been carried out in the name of religion. But, these faults--brought about by sin--are not what define religion. God's love defines religion. And it is necessary for true Christian faith.
Is religion perfect? No. Is the Catholic Church perfect? No. Do we strive for holiness? Yes. Do we strive to carry out Jesus' commands? Yes. Could the Church do better? We pray each day for the continued assistance of the Holy Spirit to do just that.
In a recent address to seminary professors and seminarians, the Holy Father pointed out the root of the priest's mission as shepherd of the faithful: "Priestly life requires an ever-increasing thirst for sanctity..." This call to holiness, to true devotion to God, and true sacrifice of self in the image of Christ is the heart and spirit of religious effort.
Jesus has given humanity religion; religion is absolutely dependent on Jesus. We need Christ. We need religion.
Loving Jesus, but hating religion splits the commands of Christ from the person and divinity of Christ and puts the individual in charge of faith. Worship of self, especially in the guise of Christianity, is no faith at all. We are called, rightly, to empty ourselves for Christ: to love Him as he loved us, with our all. To hate religion: the community of believers, the Church, the fellowship of the faithful in the name of loving Jesus, is a reach to the absurd.
Pray for all to return and be nurtured in the one and true faith as commanded by Christ Jesus and carried out by His bride the Church.
NOVUS: In all things there must be charity. Christ came to save the sinner and during His life he surrounded himself with the lowly and the outcast and the broken. If this post spurs your thoughts or touches you, put it into action in your life, but always exercise charity.