By Protopresbyter Fr. Themistokles Mourtzanou
Christians today often feel isolated from society and the world. We believe that being a Christian is a status that is an occasion for rejection, contempt or indifference.
Christianity is now considered an ideological system, a religion, useful for society and for some people, but not an essential component of human identity. Many do not believe in the Resurrection of Christ, which is key to the faith, or even if they believe, it only has theoretical validity. It does not transform their lives, but merely gives it a past in regards to the ideological parts, and also a future, as people want to believe that after our death there is some sort of life, and maybe we will return at some point, when evil and death have ended in this reality.
When the Disciples of Christ began to preach the Gospel and the Resurrection to the Jews, the first Christians gathered in the Temple of Jerusalem to hear the teaching, but also to rejoice in the miracles that took place from the Apostles in the name of Christ. The Book of Acts at this point notes the following: "No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people" (Acts 5:13). Of those who were in the Temple, no one dared join them, but the people greatly respected them. This sentence is a consolation for us today, because it shows the attitudes of people have not changed. Although the Jews believed in the God of the Old Testament, we would say they were religious, they understood that the faith in Christ could not go unnoticed, and though it gave another dynamic and meaning to life, they did not dare to approach and adhere to the Apostles. They were curious to hear, but did not dare join the Church. They did not dare to accept the truth, being those who crucified Christ. And though they felt within themselves that life in the world was changing, they did not want to take the big step to surpass themselves and their mindset, but they remained with the old.
This attitude against the Resurrection, against Christ, against the Church has survived throughout the centuries by those who believe that faith in Christ should be confined within the limits of religion, and they do not dare to approach the entrance to a relationship of life and truth with Him in the Church.
They are observers of the life that Christ brought.
They are those who are possessed by a spirit of compromise with the world and its reality and do not want to dare take the great plunge to taste another life.
They are those who are cowards inside, because they do not want to break with the established attitudes that prefer their faith to be a religious ideology, harmless to the processing of life into a miracle of love, eternity and light.
They are those who operate by rationality, who want evidence to justify their faithlessness or faith, yet without being ready to accept the change.
They are those who defer their problems to the future, because their living concerns prevail, or their secular goals, or the joy of their earthly life.
They are, lastly, those who deny the Resurrection, who refuse to accept that God exists and loves humanity so much, that He became obedient unto death in order to conquer death.
"They were highly regarded by the people." If you do not belong to any of the previous categories, then this plea is for us a great challenge. They held the Apostles and the Christians in great esteem. Even though they did not unconditionally accept their faith, they saw their lives, which were in accord with the way taught by Christ. They saw the love they had. They saw their humility. They saw their participation in worship. They saw their sacrifices for others. They saw the truth that emitted from their life. They saw their determination of faith. They saw their prayers. They saw the grace of God. They saw the dynamism the teachings of the Gospel brought and their continuous preoccupation with it. They saw the feeling of the presence of Christ within their hearts, that transformed their lives. They saw the miracles. They saw God being glorified. They saw that their faith was not confined to a religious ritual. In other words, they saw their authenticity and originality. They were what they believed! For this reason, even those who were the least trained, or most simple, held the Christians in honor.
In a time of questioning, indifference, exclusion, and the restriction of Christianity to a religious ritual or an entrapment of a social welfare mechanism in favor of the weak, our faith is the power that consoles us for that function as a "residue" that still loves the Risen Christ. For He is the Alpha and the Omega of our lives, even though our sins plague us and inflict us. And our faith in Him crystallizes our life. We are what we believe. If we try to follow this path, then the life of the Church will have meaning not only for us, but also for those who refuse it or who dare not to take the great plunge, by accepting the Resurrection as the only proposal of life that redeems and gives meaning to yesterday, today and unto the ages for all of human life.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.