I had this uncle–my Dad’s brother who everybody loved. Uncle Don was a terrific guy. He had a heart of gold. He was the sort of uncle who gave you a nickname and a big hug. He seemed to like everybody. He was a pastor for a while, but then dropped out because the religious people were such a pain. He spent the rest of his working life teaching kids with special needs. Uncle Don was kind, wise, loving and affirming. He passed away a few years ago, and he’s much missed.
In teaching the eighth graders this morning I told them about Uncle Don and said the main problem with Christianity is that 90% of Christians–and this includes 90% of Catholics–believe that Jesus is no more than Uncle Don. They want what Fr Barron calls “the domesticated Jesus.” They want a Jesus who tells stories, gathers the kiddies up into his lap and reaches out to touch and heal and forgive. They don’t want Aslan. They want a tame lion. They want Jesus to be like my Uncle Don.
This is certainly not to knock the Uncle Dons of this life. Would that we were blessed with more of them.
But Jesus is more than Uncle Don. He’s the Son of God. He’s the Lord of Lords. He’s Christus Pantokrator–Christ the Lord of All . He’s the second person of the Holy Trinity in human form, and despite the fact that we recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday at Mass it still hasn’t sunk in that we really and truly are supposed to believe with all our heart, soul, mind and strength that Jesus Christ is…
the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father;
The reason young people leave the faith is because they have only ever been taught that Jesus is Uncle Don. He’s a genial, loving and wise teacher. The reason Catholics skip Mass, don’t tithe, ignore God, are ignorant of the Holy Spirit and live lives indistinguishable from the rest of the worldlings is because they haven’t really grasped who Jesus Christ is. The reason for lukewarm faith and lapsed Catholics is not only that they haven’t been taught who Jesus really is, but they haven’t met anyone who lives their life as if Christ Jesus is King of the Universe.
Why do so many Catholics think church doesn’t matter? Because they think Jesus is Uncle Don. The fact that he is God of God Light of Lights in human form hasn’t registered. It hasn’t taken over their lives. They have yet to be converted.
This is why theology is important–because Arianism is forever taking over the church–because Arianism is the belief that Jesus is no more than Uncle Don–or at best Uncle Don with a halo. I spoke on my radio show yesterday with Cari Donaldson–a convert to the faith who left her childhood Presbyterianism looking for a God who was not himself a created being. She may have been taught that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, but it didn’t register. For her Jesus was Uncle Don, and that wasn’t good enough.
When a Catholic decides that they don’t need to go to Mass and that it doesn’t connect with their lives it’s most often because they think Jesus is Uncle Don, and if he is only Uncle Don–if he is only a good teacher, a nice guy, a loving and forgiving and beautiful person, then they’re right. Why on earth would you go to Mass? Just to remember Uncle Don? You can do that at home. Just to have an inspiring message about Uncle Don? You can do that at the Protestant church. Just to hear some wise instruction about life from Uncle Don’s sales rep? You can do that at the mega church. For heaven’s sake, you can do that by watching Oprah Winfrey or reading a self help book.
But if Jesus Christ is very God of Very God, begotten not made, then it changes everything. If he is who he says he is, then everything else about the Catholic faith also comes thundering through and not only makes perfect sense, but makes indispensable truth. If Jesus Christ is who we say he is then the resurrection is inevitable, the ascension follows and so do the Marian dogmas, the Mass, the sacraments and the whole life of the church.
If he is not who he says he is then I might as well just join the country club.