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Christ and the Christian

It would be impertinent to speak of a Christian without first trying to find out about Christ. Calling someone Christian only indicates that in some fashion he resembles Christ. But Who is Christ? Why are there millions of people who call themselves Christians? Philosophers have given their name to disciples who follow their system of thought Platonists, Thomists, Kantists, Marxists. None of these, however, have attained the prodigious continued devotion that Christ inspires in His followers. Even Buddhism, which demands a total surrender to its rules, has very little to say about Buddha himself, whose image is lost in legends. It is known that he was a sage, that he lived a not too eventful life, leaving a system of asceticism chiefly concerned with acquiring peace of heart through the suppression of all desires.

About Christ, however, much is known from the account written a few years after His death by four biographers, at least two of whom knew Him personally, Matthew and John. The Gospels, as they are known, have been subjected to the most critical analysis that any book has ever received. Their historic truth has been doubted, and denied, and their authors made to appear as imposters. Yet no criticism has prevented millions from accepting these simple, completely guileless and unpretentious narratives as the truth. The Gospel writers are anxious not to omit the weaknesses of Christ's human nature: His fears, His sadness, His loneliness, His anger even, His love for friends and His sorrow and tears when He learns of their death, as in the case of Lazarus.

Now side by side, and interwoven into the thread of the simple story are facts so astounding, so unusual that people are at a loss to know what to think of them. Yet if the writers had made false statements, the people who lived at the time would have given them the lie. The point is that Jesus' enemies did not and could not deny the fact of the miracles all they could do was to ascribe them to occult powers, and to the intervention of the devil. Yet who can imagine the devil "moved to compassion" at the sight of a bereaved widow mourning the death of her only son and raising him up from death to life? The miracles of Jesus occur everywhere He goes: He walks on the water, multiplies loaves to feed the hungry, calms the storm on Lake Genezareth, gives sight to a man blind from birth (who ever heard of that? the cured man asked). Even as His enemies were seizing Him in the Garden, He cured the ear of the servant of the high priest.

But these miracles were performed for no other reason than to assert His divine sonship, and to prove His claim to be believed. His teaching stirred men's hearts, for "no man had ever spoken as this man." The truths He taught came from His Father, with Whom He was one. He demanded full faith, as to One sent by God to teach man the ways of salvation and peace. A simple reading of the Gospels shows the simplicity and sublimity of Christ's doctrine, and it is that doctrine that has won so many hearts to Him.

CHRIST'S RESURRECTION

The uniqueness of Christ, however, is not that of a stupendous historical hero, a sage or wonder-worker. What marks Him apart from other men is that He rose from death. Had He not risen, His life would have perhaps touched us by its beauty and by the wisdom of His words, but His story would be that of personal failure by reason of His death on a cross between two thieves. Had the crucifixion been the end, His disciples would have thought of Him as a great man, but that His death proved that He was only a man, and not what He claimed to be the Son of God.

It was Christ's resurrection that made the whole difference, as St. Paul says: "Christ is alive and dies no more." The faith of Christ's Apostles and disciples was deeply shaken by His death on the cross. But when they realized that He was alive, they understood His words spoken a short time before His death: "I am with you to the end of the world."

The Christian then does not simply adhere to Christ's teachings, as the disciple of a philosopher believes in his system of thought. The Christian believes in a living Christ, in One Who is present to him and within him in a manner so real as to defy description. The Christian knows he can communicate with the living Christ by prayer. This belief is not a superstition of ignorant men, or of children, but is found among the greatest intellects the world has ever seen. Christianity thrives best where culture and civilization are at their highest, yet it is accepted by the minds of average people.

Personal love for Christ, which influences every movement of the heart, and inspires every action of life, is what makes Christianity something more than a system of ethics, or a guide to happiness. Christ and His followers enter into a personal relationship so intimate, so strong that it becomes a sharing of life. Christ Himself expressed this intimacy of inter-personal presence: "Abide in me, and I in you." "I am the vine, you are the branches. You cannot have life unless you dwell in me," no more than the branch can live unless it remains attached to the tree. "Abide in my love." These and many other texts, especially from the Epistles of St. Paul, show that the union of Christ with His disciples is a vital one, like the union of members with the head: "You are Christ's members."

This vital union is not taken into account by those who think of a Christian only in terms of a believer in certain tenets. Nowadays, those who prophecy the end of Christianity misunderstand that it is not the Christians whom they are trying to destroy, but that their attack is directed against Christ, the living Son of God, Who is indestructible as life itself. When Saul was struck down on the road to Damascus, the voice said: "Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?" Saul asked: "Who are you?" and the voice answered: "I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you persecute."

"This is the victory that conquers the world, our faith" in Christ. So long as the Christian knows that Christ lives within him, no enemy force can overcome him. Perhaps the reality of Christ's living presence is the one fact that needs bolstering among Christians living in the contemporary world. The tremendous advances of technology and scientific achievements cause some Christians to weaken in their faith in Christ, as though these new forces could substitute for the inner grace of Christ. On the contrary, the wonderful world of science only accentuates the lordship of Christ over us, by enlarging and extending our love for Him in areas undiscovered until now.

Christ is not the enemy of human progress, but its guiding spirit. Man still has to be told what to do with his expanding new knowledge of the world of substances and space. Christ dwells in His creation through the development of new sciences; man reaches out to God as he listens to the Spirit of Christ dwelling in his soul. Christ lives, and the Christian lives but no, Christ lives in him.

Courtesy of Catholic Information Network (CIN)
 

 

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