Jesus showed up in my life at one of my darkest moments. As a young teenager, I felt like I was at rock bottom. My mother was pretty much dying, I had no father that was present in my life, I was at the bottom of the grade school food chain, and I hated God. Life sucked and I knew it. I thought about suicide and did not want to live anymore. It was in the midst of this darkness that Jesus came into my life in a real way and changed that (you can read that story here). The point is, I encountered the real and tangible love of Jesus Christ, and I began to get to know that same Jesus through prayer, through Sacred Scripture, lives of the Saints, and through the teachings of the Catholic Church. I was like a crack addict; I could not get enough of the Truth. Now pegged as a fanatic Jesus Freak, I did not even show up on the radar of the Grade School foodchain, but the difference was, I did not care anymore. I found out quite quickly, however, that I was very much alone in this faith.
The Jesus I encountered that changed my life was far different from the Jesus being peddled to us in our school religion classes. He looked even more different from the Jesus talked about in my Confirmation class. Why was “my Jesus” different than “their Jesus”? I could not understand why it was so different, when the Jesus I knew was the same as the Jesus the Saints had encountered. The Jesus of the Gospels was far different than the Jesus of my parish. This needed to be rectified and I took it upon myself to rectify it. Jesus was being misrepresented and I needed to set the record straight.
Looking back, I realize I made a lot of mistakes growing up in my faith, especially as a teenager. My naivete was only matched with the poor catechesis I was receiving from my parish and school. The type of Catholic faith I was trying to proclaim overcompensated for the lack of clear evangelization I was seeing. So my closet was filled with an arsenal of Christian t-shirts with super lame slogans, trying to encourage my classmates to start thinking about God. Armed with my WWJD bracelets and a crucifix around my neck, I thought I was doing a service to the Gospel. Looking back, though my attempts were sincere, I know my tactics needed work. Nevertheless, I was determined to reset the image people had created about Jesus in their minds. I still am, however my tactics have changed
Every attempt has been made to make Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, a fluffy feel-good spiritualist, especially in the wake of the abuses in the name of the Second Vatican Council. Thanks to hippies and psychedelic drugs we have things like the play Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. The world gobbled up this garbage like it was candy, and the image of the real Jesus has faded. Protestantism in its turn has also done a great disservice of painting a poor picture of what Jesus really looks like, however, as Catholics, you would think we would know better. It turns out, however, that what Protestantism began, modernist catholics have brought to an even greater low. On top of the Protestant Jesus who does not even see your sins, the modernist catholic Jesus does not even care if you worship Him at all. They place this friendly buddy Jesus on the same level as the Buddha or Muhammad. Jesus is made out to be this kind little lamb, with surfer hair and an english accent, who hugs peoples and gives them what they want. It drives me absolutely nuts, but I know it certainly is a tactic of the devil to deceive the world into thinking that Jesus has no real credibility and is certainly not God, who does God-like things like call people to conversion.
Last weekend, I attended a Christian Music Festival called Sonshine Festival, in Minnesota. If anyone knows me, they know I like music, and particularly hard music. Christian music has been a part of my life since my reversion. Christian music, however, can sometimes tend toward that feel-good spirituality that I absolutely abhor. Therefore, I found myself as a teen turning away from the mainstream Contemporary Christian Music, and listening to Christian metal, because I found in that genre a realism that I did not see in the mainstream. I was reminded of that fact during the recent festival I attended. Tommy Green, the lead singer of the Christian Hardcore band Sleeping Giant said something quite striking. He said before their set even began, “As I was walking over here to play tonight, I heard someone from the mainstage say, ‘You may think that we are rockstars, but Jesus is the rockstar here.’ A rockstar? GOD HELP US IF JESUS IS A ROCKSTAR!” He went on to say that, “Jesus is not a rockstar. He is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords…do not let them take away what is true about God!” Now, I do not fully support the protestant spirituality of Tommy Green, but he made a valid point that I wish the entire local church could hear.
If you look across the face of the Catholic Church right now, you will see that it is the converted and reverted who are making the real differences. It is those who have come into an encounter with Jesus Christ, and who continue to encounter Him. The world is looking for credible witnesses, not people who read from a textbook. The world is trying to re-write Jesus, and idle Christians stand by and watch the Lord of all Creation be stripped of His power and credibility, not simply because they are afraid, but because they do not know otherwise. All of the problems we see within the local church stem from catholics who do not have a real and healthy relationship with Jesus Christ. Ask any catholic who supports so-called “same-sex marriage” and the gay lifestyle if they spend a considerable amount of time in daily prayer, scripture, Eucharistic adoration and study of the Teachings of the Church. The answer will be a resounding “no”.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
Jesus knew when He asked the question to His disciples that the world did not know who He was. Peter, whose primacy is shown in this moment, speaks on behalf of the disciples when he exclaims that Jesus is the Messiah. What differentiated these Apostles from the rest of the world they were in? The Apostles were with Jesus and stuck by His side. They were His friends. In our culture today, it is not those whose names are followed by a bunch of letters, or even those who have received a higher ecclesiastical status, who can truly answer the question about who Jesus is. It is those who are united to Him in prayer and obedient to His commands and to the Church He established who can authentically say “I know the Lord”. Perhaps it is important for all of us to take stock of where we stand with Christ and ask the question, “Am I an authentic witness of the Gospel, or am I just going through the motions?” It is time for us as Catholics, the promised co-heirs of the kingdom, to begin to tear down, brick by brick, the false pictures that people have of Jesus and begin to proclaim with our actions and words, who Jesus really is. The New Evangelization will never take root until Jesus Christ is seated on the Throne, and we acknowledge Him for who He is, no matter how many committees or task forces are started. Jesus must be crowned King again if the Church ever wishes to see herself restored, bottom line.
+Mary, Queen and Star of the New Evangelization, help us to reveal the real Jesus to the world.+