SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 13:26-33; PS 2:6-11; JOHN 14:1-6 ]
Very often, Christianity is portrayed as triumphalistic and exclusive. To some, Christians appear arrogant and aggressive. This conduct could be true for some Christians. But as a religion, Christianity is not against humanity but for humanity. She presents herself as a servant of the gospel whose mission is to offer the Good News of Jesus Christ, as the Way, the Truth and the Life for all. Indeed, more than ever, when this world is falling into despair because of the promotion of agnosticism, relativism and humanism, Christianity seeks to fulfill the vacuum and gaps in our lives and in religions.
Agnosticism says what Thomas in the gospel said: “we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” In the face of so many religions and philosophies, Agnostics cry, “We do not know the way! So let us just live in ignorance of the existence of God”. Like the Jews during the time of Jesus, they too, out of ignorance, put Jesus to death. St Paul said, “Though they found nothing to justify his death, they condemned him and asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out everything that scripture foretells about him they took him down from the tree and buried him in a tomb.”
To the agnostics, we want to say that we know the way. Jesus is the Way, the Gate to eternal life. He comes from the Father and He shows us where the Father is. As the psalm prophesied through David, “It is I who have set up my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’ I will announce the decree of the Lord: The Lord said to me: ‘You are my Son. It is I who have begotten you this day.” For this reason, Jesus declared, “No one can come to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the revelation of God. He is our revealer and the revealed. St Paul wrote, “The mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:26f)
Secondly, relativism says that everything is relative. There is no objectivity in truth. Precisely, the confusion in the world today is the consequence of relativism as there is no reference point for truth. When there are no absolutes or fundamental principles that are unchanging for us to refer to, everything ends up in subjectivism. Relativism breeds pragmatism and individualism. It is not possible to unite a people when there is no basis to hold the people together. Since truth is always changing, no one can say that whatever values we hold in life are true or good. Parents can no longer teach their children values, since it is a matter of preference. Without the objectivity of truth, no one dares to hold on too strongly to whatever they believe. So we live in flux and instability, anxious that what we cherish today might be seen as silly and superstitious tomorrow.
However, for Christians, Jesus is the Truth simply because He is the Word of God in person. We are confident that we know what the truth is because Jesus is the revealer. He comes to reveal to us the truth about God. He will send us the Holy Spirit who “will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.” (Jn 16:8b-11) In Jesus, we know what is right or wrong. He is the light of the world. “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16f)
Thirdly, humanism says there is no God. But they can know everything through human reason. There is no eternity. When we die, we just disappear from the face of the earth. When we push the limits of humanism, we will end in annihilation because there is no purpose or goal in life. We are just here to make the best of it and then we will disappear from the world. Whatever success or achievements we make will be left to the next generation to take over. When life has no purpose or a meaning that lives beyond us, then this life is vanity. We fall into despair like the apostles when Jesus was about to leave them. Hence, Jesus said to them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house; if there were not, I should have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you may be too.” We cannot be reduced to mere creatures like the rest of the world. Whether we admit it or not, we have an intellectual capacity for knowledge and a heart that desires everlasting love, which we call soul.
In response to humanism, Christianity tells us that we are called to share in the life of God. Jesus is not just the Way, the Truth but the Life. He comes to reveal to us that life is not just on earth, nor is life simply a physical or biological life. Life is to share in the love of God. History has a purpose and God has a plan for humanity. It is not a world that is left to its own without any direction or goal. This is what St Paul was telling the Jews. Everything that happened to Jesus was in the plan of God. “What the people of Jerusalem and their rulers did, though they did not realise it, was in fact to fulfil the prophecies read on every Sabbath.” Furthermore, the claim that Jesus is the life-giver and that there is life after death, is established in no uncertain terms in the raising of Jesus from the dead. “But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had accompanied him from Galilee to Jerusalem: and it is these same companions of his who are now his witnesses before our people.”
Indeed, Christianity is the fulfillment of the plan of God for humanity. This was what St Paul told the Jews, “We have come here to tell you the Good News. It was to our ancestors that God made the promise but it is to us, their children, that he has fulfilled it, by raising Jesus from the dead. As scripture says in the first psalm: You are my son: today I have become your father.’” Again, he wrote to the Ephesians. “This grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Eph 3:7b-11) To the non-Jews in Athens, Paul said, “For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:23)
Finally, in Nostra Aetate, the Church teaches, “Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing ‘ways,’ comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself. The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.”