The guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked him, “Why did you not bring him?” The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.” So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived?”
Today our 8th graders will be getting confirmed in their Catholic faith. Please pray for them because my biggest concern for them is that many of them don’t really know the faith they are confirming. So yesterday, I spent over four hours with them and asked them if they had any questions regarding our Catholic faith.
One young lady asked, “Father, last year one of our teachers told us that only Catholics go to Heaven. Is this true?” I don’t know for sure if the teacher really said this, but I do know that it is not true, and I was pleased to see that all of our kids agreed with me. But then I asked, “If that is the case, then who goes to Heaven?” One child responded, “Christians.” But then I asked, “What about the rest of the world, the nearly 70% of the world that does not know Christ? Are they doomed to Hell out of no fault of their own?” Then another child responded, “Well then everyone goes to Heaven!” That was an answer I had heard many years ago in my own CCD class. But that answer was immediately shot down when it became obvious that if everyone goes to Heaven, then there really is no good or evil to choose from.
The answer is simple. Jesus Christ is the only Savior of the World. There is no other. We are redeemed through Him; we are loved by Him; we are saved because of Him. So, anyone can be saved (Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, etc.), as long as they implicitly or explicitly accept Jesus in their lives.
Of course it is much easier to get to Heaven by being a Christian because we have it all. We have all that it takes to get to Heaven. We have the Word of God. We have the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Communion, Confession and Confirmation). Yes, we have it all, so no excuses. I explained to my young audience that it is much easier to stay healthy by eating right and exercising often. However, you can still stay healthy by having open heart surgery or liposuction or by taking injections of insulin. But which is easier? What is better? The answer is obvious.
However, I wasn’t content with just this answer. I wanted to surprise the kids. So I asked them, “If anyone can be saved, then why be a Christian?” They had no idea. So, I asked them, “If someone struck you in the cheek and instead of retaliating you offered them the other cheek. What do you think would be their reaction?” One child answered, “Shock.” That was good, but not good enough. Another child responded, “Surprise.” That was it!
“If someone said to you, ‘I hate you’, and you responded, ‘I will never hate you.’ What do you think their reaction would be?” They said, “Surprised!” “If instead of gossiping about someone you never talked bad about them. What would be their reaction?” The answer was unanimous: “Surprised!”
To the girls, I asked them, “How do you think your boyfriend would react if you were beautiful AND moral?” They answered, “Surprised!” To the boys, I asked them, “What would your friends think if you were very athletic AND very humble?” They answered, “Surprised!”
“This is what it means to be a Christian: We surprise the Hell out of the world…Literally!” The guards who were sent to arrest Jesus came back and said, “We have never heard anyone speak like this man.” They should have been more honest and said, “We have never seen anything like this. We have never seen anyone live like this man!”
The Saints live like this. St. Maximilian Kolbe surprised the hell out of the Nazi commandant when he stepped forward and offered to lay down his life for a fellow prisoner. In fact, the Nazi commander said, “Who the hell are you?” “A Catholic priest”, was his reply. No one takes my life. I lay it down.
Throughout India you will find 7 ft or 8 ft tall statutes of Mother Teresa. You would almost think that she was that tall, but she wasn’t. She was less than 5 ft tall, but she was a giant! Surprise!
When St. Francis of Assisi told his father that he wanted to be a priest, his father insisted that he come home with him. After all, everything the young man had belonged to his father, even the clothes on his back! So, what did the young man do? In front of his father, he took off all his clothes and gave them back to him. Surprise!
There is nothing surprising about a young man who kills three children in retaliation for the deaths of three other children. No surprise there, just horror! There is nothing surprising about someone who strikes back, fights back or shoots someone in the back!
Our world is an amazing surprise, but Christians are even more of a surprise, and we have been personally called, by God, to think differently; speak differently and live differently. We are not the surprise party guest; we are the surprise party surprise guest. Wherever we go, we surprise! At home, we surprise. At work, we surprise. At school, we surprise. How? By dedicating our life, our words, and our work to Jesus Christ.
So, wherever you go, be another Christ! Those who are confirmed are considered Soldiers for Christ. Onward Christian Soldier!
Christianity has become boring because Christians have become boring. But all it takes is a little faith, the size of a mustard seed, and we will move mountains. Surprise!