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What we believe

The people of God, the Church, continues the mission of proclaiming God's great love for us, and witnessing to that love through our lives. Find out more about what we believe about the need for mission and outreach in our world.

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What we believe

Reflecting on Mission and Outreach

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown rapidly became a bestseller. Part of its allure is that it purports to expose the Church's best kept secret - that Jesus Christ is not God. Curiosity in the book was briefly refuelled in 2006 when the film version was released in Australia and many more people were exposed to its ideas.

Becoming poor...

One can imagine if Dan Brown accompanied Peter, James and John to the site of Jesus' transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8), he may have written a very different novel! In a moment of revelation, the disciples are exposed to Jesus' authority which eclipses both Moses, the great lawgiver and Elijah, the great prophet, through the voice of God proclaiming, "this is my Son, the Beloved". Add to this the sight of Jesus' inner Divine glory revealed in his "dazzlingly white" appearance and surely the hardest cynic would be converted! Here is a real secret to reveal!

Since our world today is not privy to such divine glimpses many do not believe that Jesus Christ is God. Yet Dan Brown not only disbelieves but seeks to undermine our own Christian faith in the light of so-called "research".

Brown's major claim refers to the First Council of Nicea (325 AD). Justice for allHe writes: "Until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet... a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless." [p233] Brown suggests that it was at the behest of Constantine, the Roman Emperor, that the Bishops invented the claim of Christ's divinity. However, recognised history explains that while Constantine did call the Council, it was to settle a Church dispute brought by the priest Arius and his followers (Arians) who asserted that Jesus was only human. The Bishops settled the dispute by reaffirming Christians' long held understanding of Jesus as fully human, fully divine.

But Brown would have us believe that the Scriptures themselves were altered by the Council to contain the references to Christ's divinity, such as Thomas' "My Lord and my God". (Jn 20:28). Scripture scholars (both Christian and non-Christian) simply do not support this fabrication theory. In addition, there are plenty of early writings outside of the Bible predating Nicea where Christians such as Ignatius of Antioch (110 AD), Tertullian (210 AD) and Clement of Alexandria (190 AD) all speak of their belief in Jesus' divinity.

Brown's other claims are equally far fetched, and while a well-reasoned faith is important, we can appeal to more than intellectual arguments. We may explain that belief in God brings a sense of peace and joy.

But for those who choose to believe in Jesus as Lord, it is not sufficient to bask in the light of the Son, making three tents to prolong our experience. This leads to a danger eloquently captured in Kevin Bates' lyrics:

{xtypo_rounded2} I could visit my church with its comfortable seats
And pray that the starving have something to eat
And I'd pray that the moral corruption I see
Would keep far away from a nice bloke like me
My eyes they are closed, My ears are shut fast
The message of Christmas is not one to last
Jesus was good but his mates let him down
I'm afraid that the habit is catching. [A Piece of Doggerel] {/xtypo_rounded2}

Rather, our authentic wonder in the face of Jesus' divinity leads us to respond to Pope Benedict's challenge at World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne: "Anyone who has discovered Christ must lead others to him. A great joy cannot be kept to oneself. It has to be passed on."

Spreading the Word - Jesus Christ - is our mission. We are dismissed from Eucharist to "Go now in peace to love and serve the Lord". This leads us to evangelise others, share in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, support social justice initiatives, to live a life of love and service - and such activity helps transform the world.

Peace with creationYet these activities are not ends in themselves. Our Baptismal call is to be one with Christ, not one with a job or ministry. Our "call", in other words, our vocation, is about a fundamental way of living, not just something we do. Vocation is not an option for some but a calling for all.

So how are we to follow? Pope John Paul II states: "It is not therefore a matter of inventing a 'new programme'. The programme already exists: it is a plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever. Ultimately, it has its centre in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem." [Novo Millennio Ineunte, 29]

Many programs compete for our attention, vying to solve our problems, yet we realise the problems don't go away. Before we rush in to save the world, our Church, our family or indeed our own life, may the words of God the Father on the mountain pull us up short, "Listen to Him!".

In order to be a light on a hilltop, salt for the earth, to love others as Christ has loved us, we must firstly be transfigured into his likeness. The most powerful reality of this occurs in Eucharist where bread becomes Body, and we are transformed into the Body of Christ. Yet for this transfiguration to be more than a pleasant self-gratifying experience, it needs to be accompanied by prayerful discernment and contemplation on our life in the Trinity.

In Jesus' case, our discernment leads us to a study of Scriptures, and to deepen our knowledge of faith, so that when the Dan Browns of this world come along, we need not fear their message because our belief in the Son is no longer based on what others' have said but through our own personal conviction and experience of his Divine Presence. Indeed, through the testimony of our life of faith, we will be witnesses to others of the Good News of Jesus Christ; and our witness will be far greater than the influence of any book or film.

  • Wednesday, 21 November 2012
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