A friend recently asked on Facebook why some Protestants deny that Catholics are Christians. In order to understand his query, a definition of ‘Christian’ should be explored. Although they are never perfect, some analogies might help.
If a Vegan is one who does not eat meat, and if I were to say I am a Vegan and presented myself as a Vegan, but ate chicken often, would I actually be a Vegan?
If a politician claims to be anti-gun yet has a personal armed protection detail, is she truly anti-guns?
And if man states he is faithful to his wife yet has affairs, is he really faithful?
So what is a Christian?
One who believes in Christ as Son of God, God incarnate and Savior of the world? Even the demons agree here.
One who claims Jesus is Lord? Christ Himself said not all who cry ‘Lord, Lord’ will be saved.
Jesus said many things that define the possibility of salvation:
Take up your cross and follow Him. Do everything He commands. Care for your family. Do His Father’s will. Go and make disciples, baptizing them in Trinitarian form. Persevere to the very end. And in the example of St. Paul, don’t persecute the Church.
But the command of most critical importance: unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, there is no life in you.
Unless you do this, it means this. Seems pretty clear. Unless a Vegan refrains from meat, he is not a Vegan. Unless a politician refrains from armed guards, she is not anti-gun. Unless a man forsakes all others, he is not faithful to his marriage vows.
Definitions are important, and to live out the Faith as a Christian, a person needs to submit to and follow the very core of the definition. And here is where for the last 500 years those outside the Church make things complicated.
We’ve all heard it. “Communion is only symbolic.” Statements like this have added to Christ’s original teaching in the John 6 Bread of Life Discourse. But to know Chrst and authentically live out Christianity, it requires us to know the pattern of His teaching method.
Because Jesus is Truth personified, He was a straight-shooter. From the Calling of the 12, to the Beatitudes, to the Parables. WAIT! Parables were not exactly straight-forward teachings…or were they?
Parables were kind of like analogy stories. They were scenes from common place, everyday life that drew the listener towards a greater truth. But in teaching through parables, Jesus always gave a clear explanation to complete the teaching. So what transpired in John 6 presents an immediate problem, if we try to classify it as a parable.
The 1st problem is the set up. At the beginning of Chapter 6, Jesus sets the stage by giving people what they physically need. He fed the 5000 with only 5 barley loaves and 2 fish. It was miraculous to say the least.
Then He gives another miraculous sign of walking on water. This event caused some perplexed questions by the people the next day, who noticed Jesus had not left with the disciples on the boat, yet he was with them on the other side of the sea.
His answer to them was to use the example of the Feeding of the 5000, and to tell them that this food is not the enduring food that they need. He talks about the bread from heaven, which all of them would have understood to be manna from the time of Moses…the bread sustained the people daily. Sound familiar? Give us our daily bread? The analogy was complete when Jesus then said, “I am the bread of life and he who comes to me shall not hunger and he who believes in me shall never thirst.”
However, there is then an admonishment because people had not believed in Him as the Bread come down from heaven. Of course there is the usual murmuring. He is only the son of Joseph. We know his mother and father. But then Jesus says something that cannot be explained in any way as a parable.
Starting at Verse 46 is the real teaching moment…the Miracle above all miracles. He leads them right to the Teaching of all teachings at verse 53, that the flesh and blood of the Son of Man are the only things on this earth that offer eternal life. And…wait for it…that they must eat and drink of these!
The response from the murmurers? By Verse 66, they were gone. Too tough a teaching. To them it reeked of cannibalism. And the idea of drinking human blood was completely against all they knew from their Jewish faith. The simple statement at 66 […many of his disciples drew back and no longer walked with him] is a bit dry. Reality: they were no longer ‘Christians.’ And don’t go all semantically technical here. The term was not widely used, but in essence his disciples were Christians. They hung on every word from Christ, seeking to follow those words.
So let’s get back to the idea of this being a parable. In all parables, as I stated, Jesus was clear on the meaning. He explained in real terms what the parable actually meant. But instead, what does Jesus do at Verse 67? He asks the Twelve a pointed question: Will you also go away. There was no explanation that this was just a symbolic teaching. There was no explanation of it being a parable. Jesus knew that the teaching was difficult, and that is the whole point. If the disciples could not follow Him and continue to follow Him through the most difficult and critical Truth, they could not be his followers. They could not be Christians.
Either we take Jesus at his word, or we make something up like, “This is only symbolic”—as if Jesus needs fallible men to say what He REALLY meant. There is a word that defines people who misrepresent the words of Christ and his teachings. Heretic.
I have implored all people including those in the Catholic Faith, but especially those outside of Apostolic Faith (Protestants, denomination/non-denominational) to treat the current COVID-19 exile like all exiles. People have strayed from God culturally and in teachings. It is time to get right with God.
Ask yourself: why follow the faith tradition of men who re-defined Truth 500 years ago? For some of you, the inception of your faith tradition is less than even 50 years old. Yet somehow you justify following the man who started your church rather than following The Man who started The Church. For 1500 years, His Church withstood heresies, and She still stands as Christ promised. Even the Gates of Hell in the form of the so-called Reformation have not prevailed against Her.
It is time to discover the only Saving Faith there is in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. You have nothing better to do with your time in quarantine. This exile shall pass. Will you have lived it ‘Business as Usual’ and come out of it without THE most important change in your life? Will you embrace the single-most important command from Christ for all Christians?
Christ in the Sacred and Most Holy Eucharist awaits all who desire to be called Christian. His call to you remains the same as it was to the first He called:
Come and follow me.