12 May, Friday – Why be Christian?

May 12 – Memorial for Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, Martyrs; Memorial for St. Pancras, Martyr

Nereus and Achilleus (d. 98) were soldiers in the imperial Roman army, and members of the Praetorian Guard. They were converts to Christianity and baptized by St. Peter the Apostle. They were exiled for their faith, suffered with St. Flavia Domitilla, and were martyred together by beheading.

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Pancras (c. 290) was a 14-year-old orphan brought to Rome by his uncle St. Dionysius. He was a convert to Christianity, and was martyred with St. Nereus, St. Achilleus, and St. Domitilla for publicly proclaiming his faith.

Pope St. Vitalian sent his relics from the cemetery of Calepodius in Rome to the British Isles as part of the evangelization of England, so they would have the relics of the Church at large, and to install in altars in new churches. St. Augustine of Canterbury dedicated the first church in England to St. Pancras, and subsequent churches throughout England are similarly named after him.

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Acts 13:26-33

Paul stood up in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:
‘My brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all you who fear God, this message of salvation is meant for you. What the people of Jerusalem and their rulers did, though they did not realise it, was in fact to fulfil the prophecies read on every sabbath. Though they found nothing to justify his death, they condemned him and asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out everything that scripture foretells about him they took him down from the tree and buried him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had accompanied him from Galilee to Jerusalem: and it is these same companions of his who are now his witnesses before our people.
‘We have come here to tell you the Good News. It was to our ancestors that God made the promise but it is to us, their children, that he has fulfilled it, by raising Jesus from the dead. As scripture says in the second psalm: You are my son: today I have become your father.’


John 14:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God still, and trust in me.
There are many rooms in my Father’s house;
if there were not, I should have told you.
I am going now to prepare a place for you,
and after I have gone and prepared you a place,
I shall return to take you with me;
so that where I am
you may be too.
You know the way to the place where I am going.’

Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus said:

‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.’


There are many rooms in my Father’s house

The other day, I read of a book written by an ex-Atheist who had become a born-again Catholic and I wondered, if God is love, and since the Catholic Church believes in ecumenism, would we too celebrate when a non-Catholic makes a commitment to other religions other than Catholicism, such as Islam or Buddhism? After all, they are making a commitment to a way of life that they believe will lead them to become better persons. Do we celebrate that as well? Or do we still see it as a ‘factional’ loss?

In today’s gospel reading, we see two seemingly contradictory phrases. In one paragraph, Jesus mentions going to his Father’s house to prepare a room for his disciples, in a place where there are many rooms. Conventionally, one would view it as Jesus saying that there are many rooms for all of us who are followers of Christ. However, Christ’s words struck me differently when I read it. If Christ was going to prepare a room for his disciples, does it mean that our Father’s house has many other rooms for those who are not conventionally regarded as Jesus’ disciples? For instance, if God is love, and we believe that other religions lead people to God, then wouldn’t it also mean that there are rooms for others in God’s house? Yet, Jesus says, “No one can come to the Father except through me.” What does that mean? The words of Christ are thought-provoking and they are a mystery.

Perhaps they are for all the people who lived before Jesus’ time, but who believed in God – the ones that Paul spoke about in the first reading. Perhaps, they are also meant for people who will live in the future, those who never had a chance to encounter Christ personally but who have come to know God by knowing love. After all, there are people who may be beyond the scope of the Church, but are within God’s mercy.

The crux of today’s reflection though is this: “Why are we Christian? Why do we believe in Christ?” Is it solely because we want a foothold in heaven? Or is there something about Him that has changed our lives and broadened our visions? Have we grown comfortable in our perceptions that we fail to see the underlying message of Christ? Namely, that God’s love and salvation transcends all boundaries. It wasn’t just limited to a special group of people whom God had chosen as his own. If our beliefs have led us to forsake the individual for the sake of doctrine, then we may be missing out on truly knowing the person of Christ.

Today, let us take some time and reflect on this question, “Why do I believe in Christ?”

 (Today’s Oxygen by Daniel Tay)

Prayer: We pray for Christians to gain greater clarity on why we believe in Christ.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for his gift of love.

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