WHY DO PEOPLE CALL ME A CHRISTIAN?
Rev. John Kha Tran
The story is told of a rather self-important man who made it his mission to visit the Sunday school classes in his church each week. Often teachers were a little intimidated by him sitting there in silent judgment.
One young woman nervously asked him if he would like to speak a few words to the class. Of course he would like to! So he stood in front of the little ones, and he said, “Why do you suppose people call me a Christian?”
No one answered. Nobody moved.
So he asked again: “Why do you think people call me a Christian?”
Silence! Blank stares.
“Come on!” he said. “Somebody can give me an answer! Why do people call me a Christian?”
And finally one small hand worked its way hesitantly above a young head. He pointed expectantly toward the girl.
“Why do you suppose people call me a Christian?” he asked her.
“Maybe,” she said with a tremor in her voice, “because they don’t really know you!”
Faithful to the True God
We call ourselves Christians, not because we do not have a name; but because we are baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection. To be baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection means that we embrace Jesus’ teachings and Jesus’ way of life. It is not enough to define our Christian identity by baptism, by profession of faith, by associating ourselves with a Christian denomination or churches, by going to church, by receiving the Holy Eucharist or by reading the Bible etc. St. Paul reminds the Corinthians that their ancestors did all of those things. They all followed the cloud, crossing the sea, baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink. Yet God was not pleased with them. They were among the people of God but they grumbled. They allowed themselves to be distracted by foreign gods.
As Christians, it is important for us to be faithful to the God who calls us into a life of communion with Him through his Son. God is a faithful God; and He expects his people to be faithful to Him as well. To be faithful to God means to keep our relationship with God alive, to constantly engage ourselves in conversation with God.
Moses is a good example. When he saw the burning bush, he decided to go and check it out, “I must go over to look at this remarkable sight and see why the bush is not burned.” Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law. This was his worldly duty; but his spirit was with God. When he saw the heavenly signs, he engaged himself in it. As he encountered the presence of God, he showed reverence to God. And God reminded Moses that He is the God of his fathers. More specifically, He is the God of Abraham . . . Isaac . . . and Jacob. Having been so long in exile in Egypt, many of the Israelites had become idolaters, as their Egyptian masters were. Therefore God reminded Moses as well as the whole people of Israel that He was the only True God. God later made Himself known to all the people. He was to make a covenant with them through Moses. “I will be their God, and they will be His people.”
Like Moses, it is important for us to show reverence in the presence of God at church. The church building is not a civic building. It is also not a hall. It is a special place designated for worship. The church building is the holy ground where we encounter God as a community of believers. In the Catholic Church, we also celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist. It is where Christ is made presence sacramentally. It is also where we listen to the words of God together as a community. After a whole week working and living in the world, we come to church to listen to the words of God. The words of God remind us of our only True God, and there are no others.
Living in the world, we are exposed to many different philosophies and beliefs. Our Christian faith and beliefs might easily be tainted by wrong theologies as well.
On January 2010, the earthquake killed almost 200,000 people in Port-Au_Prince, Haiti. And on February another earthquake in Chile killed almost 1,000 people. Many people wonder why God let it happen. Is God punishing the people of Haiti and Chile? Are they more of sinners than others? If you are asking these same questions, you are not different from some of the people of Jesus’ time. These are just a couple of the more spectacular of a whole series of tragic and painful events which occur daily, which trouble our hearts and create questions in our minds.
The Desarmes family left their native Haiti two weeks after the devastating earthquake, joining the eldest son in Chile for what seemed a refuge from the fear and chaos of Port-au-Prince. Their sense of security was shattered at 3:45 a.m. that Saturday when a powerful quake shook Chile killing almost 1000 people. All the Sesarmes survived both quakes. They do not think that they are better than others. They just wonder why they are spared!
Some people approached Jesus and asked his opinion about two incidents which raised the same questions. One took place at the temple in Jerusalem, when Pilate ordered some Galileans killed while they were in the act of making animal sacrifices to God; the blood of those devout worshipers became mingled with the blood of the animals.
The other incident happened at the tower of Siloam. The tower was part of the fortification of Jerusalem. It collapsed and killed 18 persons. Now the people approached Jesus and asked, “Why do those kinds of things happen?” Did they happen because the people involved were so wicked that the tragedies were God's judgment upon them?” Their question implied that God was the cause of these tragedies. And the intention behind it was to discredit God. If God were love, merciful and compassion, why would he do evil things like that? Jesus did not agree with their assumption. He focused instead on the purpose of human life. Instead of asking, “Why do people die the way they do?” it is more important to ask, “Why are we given life?” That is the reason Jesus warns them, “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did.”
Jesus is calling us to repent, to follow His way of life. He is the only way leading us to the Father. Jesus is a Servant of God; we should be servants to God and to one another. Jesus comes into the world in obedience to God and doing God’s will. We should be obedience to God and doing God’s will in the world as well. Jesus is compassionate. He loves the poor, feed the hungry, and cures the sick. He defends and forgives sinners. We should do the same. Every one of us is like a fig tree. We are Christian Fig Tree. We should produce Christian Fig Fruits. God is expecting us to be productive Christian Fig Trees.