Christ is risen!
There was a popular song in the 1970’s called “Me and Jesus.” It became popular during the “Jesus People” movement in the United States during this decade. This movement was something of a small awakening of young people to faith in Christ.
The lyrics testify of a central idea of modern religious thought that reduces faith to nothing more than a “personal” idea. The chorus says it all:
“Me and Jesus got our own thing goin’
Me and Jesus got it all worked out
Me and Jesus got our own thing goin’
We don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about”
In other words, “This Jesus I’m talking about is my own personal deity. He exists solely to meet my needs.”
This popular notion about religion reduces faith to mere “medication” to make me feel better, or act better. But the great problem here is that it isn’t God Who is the center of this religion.
St. Peter had a misunderstanding similar to this when he was confronted with the reality that God was going to incorporate people outside Peter’s “tribe” in the kingdom of God. Peter has been shown a vision of non-kosher animals and then been commanded to “rise, kill and eat.” But he protests that he had never eaten anything that wasn’t strictly part of the Jewish kosher laws. In his vision he hears a Voice that says “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” After this encounter with God’s abundant grace and His awesome plan to include everyone in His Kingdom, Peter is sent to the first Gentile converts to the Christian faith – a Roman Centurion named Cornelius and his family. (see Acts 10)
This temptation to reduce the Uncreated God to some tribal deity or even to “my own personal Jesus,” is a common temptation meant to make God “manageable” and leave “me” in charge. It is something each of us faces when we look at our own spiritual life and spiritual maturity.
But this reduction of God or my faith to a possession or only “for people like me” is another manifestation of our pride and spiritual sickness. The spiritual poverty this temptation creates eventually makes the faith I practice a mere shadow of authentic Christianity.
It is no wonder the Church gives us this message about Cornelius’ conversion and Peter’s struggle with thinking beyond his comfort zone as we approach the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman this weekend. She was the Ultimate Outsider.
This using God or the faith as your personal possession will always be a spiritual poverty meant to blunt the strong and robust encounter with the Uncreated God. It will always perpetuate spiritual immaturity and eventual apostasy. The only true antidote to this temptation is an ever-renewing spiritual growth and strong humility.
Today, with this message ringing in your ears, ask the Holy Spirit to point out where you might be struggling with the temptation to make Jesus your possession or reducing the Uncreated God to a mere “tribal deity.” Where are you simply “using” the faith to “medicate” your pain? Who are you reluctant to see as potential brothers and sisters joining you in your local parish? Where is your vision of God too small?
You were meant to be like the Virgin Mary, who was made, by grace to hold Him Who cannot be held. If your heart is ever going to be that big, that “roomy,” so as to hold the Uncreated God, you are going to have to abandon all notions about God that are too small and lead to a small heart. The doors of your church will never be more open to Jesus or to others than the doors of your heart!