The Five Faces of Christ

How do you know it’s Jesus?

There are dozens of religious experiences out there to be enjoyed. It’s a buyer’s market, and in this age of commercialism the hucksters of religion are pretty good at slapping together a neat religious experience. In the mega churches you can get a whizz bang combination of light rock music, hologram sermons from the mega preacher, a touch of self help philosophy, donuts, coffee, cool child care, and a dash of feel good inspiration.

The old time Protestant religion gives you solid Bible preaching with a splash of guilt to make you feel bad/good. They usually do a nice line in imprecations against the ungodly and worldly folk (of who you and yours are definitely not) and that will make you feel warm all over and ‘close to Jesus’. Often they throw in some apocalyptic, ‘end times’ conspiracy theory stuff  which builds up the esprit de corps through a bit of excitement and fear.

Meanwhile, the main line Protestant denominations offer peace and justice for all. All are welcome there and it makes you feel good that all ethnic minorities, homosexuals and feminists can all come together under a rainbow banner to embrace one another and build a brave new world together. With this they offer some righteous indignation against all the oppressors, the rich and the ‘self righteous wicked bigoted conservatives white male patriarchal oppressors.’

All of this in the name of Jesus. But where do you encounter Christ, and how do you know it was Jesus? In addition to all the above you can throw in the charismatics with their ‘experience of renewal’ the experience of getting saved or born again and/or any number of study groups, church groups, religious communities and home groups all who invite you to ‘experience Christ’–which is code for “have the sort of religious experience I have had you’ll really like it.” Lest I be accused of cynicism, I am not really down on all these sorts of groups. I’m actually in favor of a religious marketplace. The only question I want to ask is, “Err, how do I know I’m getting the real thing?”

C.S.Lewis once commented about a form of religious experience that it might make him feel good, but then he could get much the same feeling from having had a rather good dinner.

The Catholic Church offers plenty of ‘religious experiences’ but we also rest those experiences on the objective experience of Christ in five ways, and these five ways are not only taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but in the gospel itself.

The first way is through the community of believers. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name there I am in the midst of them.” Good. So I experience Christ therefore within and through the church. It is in my fellow believers and in our worship together that Christ is known. My own personal subjective experience must be validated by the corporate reality of Christ in the Church.

The second way is through the Eucharistic species. The bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. “This is my body” he taught. It’s pretty simple. We know Christ through communion and through Eucharistic adoration. In that action we move out of ourselves and into communion with the objective reality of Christ in the Eucharist–made present in and through his Body the Church.

The third way is joined with the first two. We know Christ in the person of the priest. He said to his apostles, “Those who hear you hear me, and those who hear me hear the one who sent me.” and “As the Father has sent me I am sending you.” By direct commission Christ not only sends the apostles, but is present in and through them through the miracle of ordination and apostolic succession. “Whaat!” I hear you gasp “I am to see Christ in old Father Layabout who has a drink problem?” That’s right. “I am to see Christ in Father Volcanic who blows his top at every little problem?” Uh huh. It’s a mystery, but there it is. Most of all, of course, we see Christ when that frail and human priest is celebrating Mass, hearing confessions and doing what only a priest can do.

The fourth way is through the sacred Scriptures. “The Word was made flesh.” We therefore come to know Christ through the study of Scripture and the hearing of the word of God. Here is another “mystery of Godliness” that God speaks to me through meditating on his Word.

The final way is in the face of the poor. Do you you want to experience the mystery of an encounter with Christ? Do you want to know that it really is Jesus? Then see his face in the face of the poor. Don’t just write a check to your favorite charity. Get out and meet them and you will meet Christ. He said that too didn’t he? “Inasmuch as you did this for the least of my brethren you did it for me.”

These are the five faces of Christ. You might as well forget about the rest of that piffle. The best all that other stuff can do is lead you to the five faces of Christ. The worst it can do is distract you away from the five faces of Christ because you will have mistaken a poor counterfeit for the real thing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03271388607886738576 BHG

    Awesome. I was nodding along in agreement through the whole post, familiar stuff, of course, but I've never seen it put this way. What a great answer i will have next time an Evangelical asks me whether I have a personal relationship with Christ!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05725997888977875028 walter

    i will enjoy rcia even more tonight i am looking forward to next Easter.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12764661218261629576 Morrie

    very, very nice. Very true to the point. I have a co-worker who is Mega Church Baptist and who spends an inordinate amount of time pondering end times and the rest of his time anxious about the days worries. It is sad that our seperated brethren do not have the fullness of the faith.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06962374096401238994 shadowlands

    I know and believe in the creed but religious boundaries matter less and less to me lately, they cause wars. I thought it was just fundamentalists who fought over religion nastily but catholic fundies are the worst, they don't want to convert, just condemn and clear the church of undesirables.Not like the Fatima angel prayer requests of us, at the end? 'especially those in most need of thy mercy' Men cling to religion like boats because they are too frightened to walk on water, take away our group of fellow believers (doctrine wise) and we're on shaky ground, dependant on faith alone. Not many people can risk that and that's fine, that's why God blesses religions, but they won't be needed in heaven. We'll all know as we are known then.I talk about Jesus to who ever will listen. I also believe we are near the end, that the veil will soon lift but not before a great revival that is prophesied by all the great religions, including Catholic charismatics.I believe I am called to be a Catholic, to obey the church's teachings to the best of my ability. I don't have everybody else's vocational map inside my head though.I don't own my faith, it's all a gift, everything. Thank you my Jesus.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12746127431922685446 JD Curtis

    I know and believe in the creed but religious boundaries matter less and less to me lately, they cause warsAs a Presbyterian who frequents this blog, I can identify with this statement.May God grant us discernment to evaluate those who are charlatans from those who are His.

  • https://openid.aol.com/opaque/cc44db38-c510-11e0-a559-000bcdca4d7a jose

    "You might as well forget about the rest of that piffle. The best all that other stuff can do is lead you to the five faces of Christ."By that logic I might as well stop reading the Pope "Jesus of Nazareth" book because it only leads me to the five faces. I should just go direct. That might be good advice for those further along than me, but I need encouragement in the many valid forms including awesome books, bible studies, praise music and this blog to get me turned in the right direction. Even some of those emotional experiences that you seem to have really turned against are used by God so they can't be all bad as long as they don't become your goal.There are false practitioners of many types of devotions – but don't throw the baby out with the bath water. I say we embrace the many valid ways that our Lord has given us to give us that daily encouragement that some of us still need.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15571554907399914529 Joseph D’Hippolito

    In the mega churches you can get a whizz bang combination of light rock music, hologram sermons from the mega preacher, a touch of self help philosophy, donuts, coffee, cool child care, and a dash of feel good inspiration.Have you ever considered that this is how "megachurches" try to reach out to people who are hurting, who need something else besides pseudo-theological cliches, who are concerned about their children being raised in an increasingly narcissistic culture?What is your beloved Catholic Church doing about these concerns besides issuing pedantic statements from Rome? Criminy, the bishops can't even put their money where their big mouths are when it comes to abortion! The old time Protestant religion gives you solid Bible preaching with a splash of guilt to make you feel bad/good. They usually do a nice line in imprecations against the ungodly and worldly folk (of who you and yours are definitely not) and that will make you feel warm all over and 'close to Jesus'. Often they throw in some apocalyptic, 'end times' conspiracy theory stuff which builds up the esprit de corps through a bit of excitement and fear.You know, I've heard a lot of Catholic homilies that could stand a good dose of serious, intelligent biblical exposition…like about 90 percent of them, at least.While some evangelicals obviously go overboard on "end-time conspiracies," you are going overboard on ignoring the Book of Revelation's implications. One doesn't have to beleive in "end-times conspiracies" to take the work seriously. Besides, the author (the Apostle John, if I'm not mistaken) even writes that those who take its message to heart will be blessed (Rev. 1:3)!As far as fear goes, nothing generates fear so much as an ecclesiastical class system that treats the laity and lower clergy as peons, protects the prelates from all accountability and generates a pervasive sense of entitlement among them. Well, almost nothing. There's always crass legalism (such as Lenten fasting regulations and holy days of obligation), and intimidating those who speak the truth by telling them that they have to look at their own souls, first."Catholic guilt" isn't a cliche, Dwight. It's a fact.more to come…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15571554907399914529 Joseph D’Hippolito

    You know what your problem is, Dwight? You're a snob and you're proud of it. You think that by smearing the mass of great unwashed, ignorant Protestants (in your mind), that you are upholding the One True Cathoic Faith. Try doing that with an Eastern Orthodox believer, and he'll not only eat your lunch but save the leftovers for dinner!Just who the Hell do you think you are?Besides, what kind of an organization is it whose adherents take pride in not being as bad as other groups? What does that attitude say about the organization itself?Why don't you preach Christ crucified and resurrected? Why don't you preach Christ's and His Father's love for all who embrace Him as Messiah and who, as a result, become His adopted sons and daughters?Perhaps that's because, for all your theological quasi-sophistication, you really don't know what love is. You are the incarnation of the Ephesian church in Revelation 2; you know all your theological facts but you've "lost your first love" (if, in your case, you ever had it to begin with). Your pride in your intellectual acuity hides your complete (and obvious) lack of compassion for fellow believers who don't think like you…as well as your own tremendous insecurity.If Christ behaved the way you did, He not only would have ignored the blind, the crippled, the leperous, the demon possessed, the adulterous, etc. He would have been the Pharisee of all Pharisees! Not only would He not have been crucified; He would have been praised by the likes of Caiphas!Is this the legacy you really want to leave?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15571554907399914529 Joseph D’Hippolito

    One final thing, Dwight. If I were one of your parishoners and I read this blog, I would never come to you with a profound problem affecting my emotions. Anybody who can breezily and fatuously dismiss fellow believers does not have the capacity to empathize with the hurting.


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