Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Are You Following a ‘False Version of Jesus’?

Hey fellas! Before starting this week’s faith essay, here’s an important announcement:

The annual Connecticut Catholic Men’s Conference is just around the corner: Saturday, September 19th at New Britain Stadium. This outdoor venue will allow for social distancing. Face masks required. Visit www.ctcatholicmen.org for more info and to order tickets. 

There is plenty of room in the stands for hundreds of men to spread out safely and enjoy the day’s festivities. Great speakers! Boxed lunch from Subway included in the ticket price! Adoration on the roof! Confession available throughout the day! Mass and reception of the Eucharist on the playing field! Order your tickets today!

Just when it seemed this wonderful event would have to be cancelled this year, God’s grace opened up this great opportunity: an outdoor facility large enough to accommodate hundreds of men safely. Centrally located in the state, right off a major highway. Come and join your fellow Catholic men for a day of fellowship (at a distance) and prayer (God is never distant!). And speaking of prayer, please pray for good weather! 

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The other day I read an article on a Christian website that discussed “false versions of Jesus.” Here are some of those false versions of the Lord that people embrace nowadays:

Mean Jesus. This version of Jesus is angry, really angry. He has had it up to here with our sins, and any minute now He is going to come back and set the world ablaze.

Political Jesus. This Jesus most certainly is a member of our favorite political party, and His main focus is on legislation and court rulings.
Genie in a bottle Jesus. This version of Jesus leaves us alone until we fold our hands and summon Him to give us something we want. If our prayers are not answered right away, we are surprised and disappointed.

You look like you can take it Jesus. This Jesus is based on the common expression, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Apparently, this Jesus likes to dole out suffering and illness by the truckload, and then see if we have enough faith to handle it.

I couldn’t care less Jesus. This version of Jesus is distant and silent. We’re basically on our own here in this world. Oh sure, Jesus wants us to make it into Heaven someday, and if we get there, that’s when He’ll introduce Himself to us.

Church Jesus. This Jesus is all about buildings and stained glass and liturgies and robes and candles. He is pleased if we do our rituals exactly right, even if we lose sight of Him in the process. Someone once said, “Being inside a church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than being inside a garage makes you a Buick.” However, Church Jesus says, “You are a Buick.”

Follow the rules Jesus. This version of Jesus has a very simple message: if we obey all the Commandments, then we can earn our way into Heaven. So, all we have to do is be sinless our entire lives. Easy peasy. 
If/Then Jesus. This Jesus is a deal-maker. He’s the king of quid pro quo. If we do what He asks, then He will give us what we want. Maybe we should call this version the vending machine Jesus. If we pay the right price, we will get the Snickers Bar (or job promotion, well-behaved children, nice weather for our picnic, etc.).

These various versions of Jesus certainly are interesting. I think we all can recognize the flawed thinking with each version. And we probably can think of some friends, family, or parishioners who have embraced these various versions of Jesus.

I was surprised the article did not mention the most common version of Jesus these days: Do whatever you feel like Jesus. This version of Jesus knows that our feelings are the most important thing in the Universe. Whatever we sincerely feel is right, must be right. If we don’t feel like going to church, that’s OK. If we don’t feel like praying, that’s OK. If we don’t feel like following any of the Commandments, that’s OK. All those countless Scripture verses and centuries of Church Tradition, which teach the doctrines of Christianity and how believers ought to live their lives, take a backseat to our personal feelings and urges. The “do whatever you feel like” version of Jesus knows that each and every one of us is the center of our own personal universe, and our feelings and desires must be our guide.

Maybe this would be a good time for us to check and make sure we are not worshiping a false version of Jesus. The true Jesus certainly is full of love and compassion. He knows we’re sinful by nature and we are going to mess things up quite often. But He also desires that we repent and strive to follow His commandments. The true Jesus also wants us to make Him, rather than ourselves, the center of our lives. He knows our feelings are important, but they are not the foundation of godly living. He is.

The true Jesus is not mean or political; He’s not a genie or a vending machine. And He certainly does not want us to do whatever we feel like doing. The true Jesus is all-loving and all-just. That’s why He willingly died to pay the price for our sins. This is a version of Jesus who deserves our love and devotion. 

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