MEMORIAL OF SAINT DOMINIC
Today the Church celebrates the life of Saint Dominic. Dominic de Guzman was born in the year 1170 in northern Spain. The son of Spanish nobility, he left the allurements of wealth and became a priest, eventually founding the religious order we know as the Dominicans. Known as the "Order of Preachers," the Dominicans were founded as preachers and teachers to counteract the heresies threatening the Church in the 11th and 12th centuries. Why is he important? Why are we remembering him 800 years after his death? What's the big deal?
It's been said that in the absence of clear vision people will create their own. That's true in business. That's true with churches. That's true in your experience of Jesus. There are two options. Either we will follow Jesus as He says He is or we will construct a religion within based off a Jesus we want Him to be. Either we will let Jesus determine who we are or we will try to determine who we want Jesus to be. Either we will conform our life to God or we will construct an image of God conducive to a lifestyle that we're comfortable with. It was the case 2,000 years ago in John 6:60-66. It was the case 800 years ago with Saint Dominic. And, yes, it is still the same today.
We all like to be in control. It was the story with Adam and Eve and has been the story ever since. The classic human battle is whether or not we want to be in relationship with God on His terms or our terms. Look at it this way. There is a difference between our relationship with people and our relationship the Divine. I have a relationship with my physician. I have a relationship with my insurance agent. I have a relationship with my favorite waiter at my favorite restaurant. I also have a relationship with my fraternity brothers, my golf buddies, and my fishing buddies. I have relationships with lots of people. It's mutual. I have as much influence over them as they do with me.
Jesus is not like that. God is not on par with my fishing buddies. I never have that kind of "relationship" with God. I once wrote that today's culture presents Jesus as merely a historical figure. Worse yet, Jesus is presented as our "buddy". Our culture wants to think of Jesus as a nice guy who likes the birds, nature, and all the animals on the list of endangered species. This is as dangerous of a heresy as the one's Saint Dominic faced. By believing in this "chummy" Jesus presented by the culture, we are seduced in believing that Jesus is about as powerful as Mr. Rogers: they both have good advice and they both are nice.
Eh hem ... Jesus is not chummy; Jesus is not Mr. Rogers. Jesus doesn't simply like the birds, the flowers, and endangered animals. Jesus Christ crushed evil. Jesus Christ destroyed death. Jesus Christ is the only person getting you to Heaven. When we reduce God to yet "another relationship" we are seduced to relating to God in the same way we do our dentist and our accountant: we'll make an appointment, get the help we need, and then return to living life as we did prior to the appointment. Thus, the same American culture that doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, sees Jesus as the same as Mohammad or Buddha ... after all America tells us "We're all going to Heaven, aren't we? Aren't they all different expressions of the same God?" So, the culture says to us: "believe what you want, it doesn't really matter" ... "think for yourself and be critical" ... "be all that you can be".
There was one single question that led to Jesus' death. One question. One. "Again the high priest asked him and said to him, 'Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?' Then Jesus answered, 'I am; and "you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.'" At that the high priest tore his garments and said, 'What further need have we of witnesses?' You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?' They all condemned him as deserving to die." (Mark 14:61-64)
I also once shared that nothing kills a marriage faster than when couples become so familiar with each other that they take each other for granted. Nothing kills a friendship faster that when we become so familiar with someone's generosity that we come to expect it. When you and I become so familiar with God we tend to lower God to our level rather than elevate our lives to His level. Therefore, because we have lowered God to our level we may believe that we can have an equal relationship, I influence God and He influences me.
Yes, God is near, but Jesus is not merely "my buddy". Yes, God is mercy―pure mercy―but Jesus is not simply a sensitive guy. Yes, God is patient, but Jesus is not equal to my favorite waiter.
Either we will follow Jesus as He says He is or we will construct a religion within based off a Jesus we want Him to be. Either we will let Jesus determine who we are or we will try to determine who we want Jesus to be. Either we will conform our life to God or we will construct an image of God conducive to a lifestyle that we're comfortable with.
Who is He? Really .... who is He? Is Jesus who He says He is?
© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013
TODAY'S QUOTE FROM POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT XVI
"It is not enough to be more or less like everyone else and to think like everyone else. Our lives have a deeper purpose. We need God, the God who has shown us His face and opened His heart to us: Jesus Christ."
― Homily, Marian Shrine of Mariazell, Austria, September 8, 2007
IS HE MY BUDDDY? IS JESUS REALLY WHO HE SAYS HE IS?