Oct 3, 2012

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MEDITATION: What about the man in the centre

And He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29).

The past week a friend of ours who is a devoted Catholic shared an interesting encounter she recently had with some former university friends. Most of them are prominent academics.

She bumped into them during a visit to the town where they studied together. Their meeting became a companionable occasion.  They shared their stories from the past, laughed about some funny incidents, bemoaned their failed love affairs and just enjoyed being together. They ended up, almost inevitably, discussing the current socio-political and religious issues.

The friends, most of them agnostics, even atheists were critical. They openly deplored the negative influence of religion, all the horrible things that are still being done in the name of God. Specifically the Christian church and it’s so called hypocritical members came under fire.

The conversation turned into a tedious affair for our friend, as if she needed to explain her own beliefs. She knew that their criticism was true, but the fierceness and one-sidedness, even the arrogance with which it was done, bothered her. She even sensed a tinge of intellectual dishonesty.

She discovered that she had no desire to defend her own convictions. So she left them with only this one question:

“But what about the Man in the centre – the Man who started it all, the humble carpenter who preached love and forgiveness and defended the rights of the poor and the helpless? Why not talk about Him? Why ignore Him or shy away from his Name?”

Her question was received with surprise, if not with a slight sense of embarrassment. Because once you start talking about Christianity and the church, whether in a critical or appreciative fashion, you can’t really avoid the name and deeds of this Man. You can’t ignore the apostolic testimony about Jesus, the Jew from Nazareth – unless of course you have no real intention to understand or believe the core message of the Bible.

And this they knew.

Jesus, man of Nazareth, help us to keep our eyes upon you when the church and your followers fail us – You who is the pioneer of our faith and who showed us that God is love and compassion. Amen

Carel Anthonissen

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