Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Loving Jesus, Hating Religion?

God has revealed himself with words and works throughout a long history of friendship with mankind which culminated in the Incarnation of the Son of God and in the Mystery of his death and Resurrection. God not only revealed himself in the history of a people, he not only spoke through the Prophets but he also crossed the threshold of his Heaven to enter our planet as a man, so that we might meet him and listen to him. And the proclamation of the Gospel of salvation spread from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. The Church, born from Christ’s side, became the messenger of a new and solid hope: Jesus of Nazareth Crucified and Risen, the Saviour of the world who is seated at the right hand of the Father and is the judge of the living and the dead. This is the kerygma, the central, explosive proclamation of faith.

However the problem of the “rule of faith” has been posed from the outset, in other words the problem of believers’ faithfulness to the truth of the Gospel, which to be firmly anchored, to the saving truth about God and man that must be preserved and passed down. St Paul wrote: “I preached to you the Gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast — unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor 15:2).

But where can we find the essential formula of faith? Where can we find the truths that have been faithfully passed down to us and that constitute the light for our daily life? The answer is simple. In the Creed, in the Profession of Faith or Symbol of Faith, we are reconnected with the original event of the Person and history of Jesus of Nazareth; what the Apostle to the Gentiles said to the Christians of Corinth happens: “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-5).

General Audience, 17 October 2012

Reflection – ‘I love Jesus, but I hate religion.’ OK, I know that was last year’s big viral YouTube sensation, and I’m just slightly slow on the uptake responding to it. One thing I can’t quite get (and don’t really want to get) about blogging and social media is the whole rapid fire point/counterpoint debate club thing. I prefer to take my time, think about things, and respond when I actually have something to say, rather than be pushed and pulled about by whatever the latest ‘thing’ is.

So… hating religion but loving Jesus. It seems to me that this attitude is what the Pope is addressing in his own indirect way. There is this central kerygma (proclamation) of Christ, which we do access directly and simply in the Gospels and other New Testament writings: God coming to us as man, teaching us the path of life, dying for our sins, risen in glory to raise us up with Him, coming at the end of the ages to bring his work to completion. Alleluia.

But… the problem is how we are to remain faithful to this Jesus, how we are to be sure that the One we are following and worshipping is the very One who did and is doing all this. And this is the role of dogma in our lives. You see, it is not so simple. We have to know our own capacity for self-deception. It is so easy to fashion a Jesus in our own image and likeness. We also have to know that the devil is roaming about, seeking to confuse us and lure us away from this true Jesus. And we have to know that the prevailing culture, the spirit of the age, has always co-opted Jesus for its own agendae and ends. In short, the world, the flesh, and the devil—this is why we need religion!

Saying ‘I love Jesus but I hate religion’ is an exercise in anticipated eschatology—that is, it is an unwarranted attempt to live as if we are in heaven when we rather obviously are not quite there yet.

In this life there are these three great forces pulling us away from the true Jesus: the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is the Church, its dogmas and rituals, Creeds and commandments, that binds us (which is the meaning of the word ‘religion’) to the true Jesus and the truth of the Gospel
There is a perception, widespread today I think, that some kind of terrible divide separates authentic faith in Jesus and a faithful adherence to the Church and its doctrines. Perhaps part of this Year of Faith can be our own overcoming this false division and truly understanding better that it is precisely the Church and its doctrinal authority that ensures that the Jesus we are worshipping is the real Jesus, the living one, and not some idol made in our own image or a puppet serving the agendas of the culture, or a demonic parody of Christ. I love Jesus and I love religion, because it is my religion that binds me to Jesus securely and joyously. And… that’s more than enough for today!


  1. Father Denis,

    I read your post early this morning and was troubled.

    Just now I read the gospel for today:
    "When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said "All these things you are staring at now- the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be desroyed". And they put the question : Master when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?

    "Take care not be deceived" he said "because many will come using my name and saying 'I am he' and :'the time is near at hand'. Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened...".
    luke 21: 5 or so

    And these words were like a sudden calming breath.

    1. I'm a bit puzzled at your being troubled at what I wrote - is it wrong, somehow? Anyhow, God bless you, and know you are in my prayers.


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