Summary: There is a great need in the Church for a bold, challenging proclamation of the need to make a decision as an adult for Jesus as Lord of all your life.
"But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe unless they have heard of Him? And how can they hear unless there is someone to preach? (Ro 10:14)
One sunny October morning many years ago, I was driving to work in my Volkswagen bug. It was a few months after asking Jesus to be my personal Lord and Savior and praying for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. I was thanking God for the new found peace I was experiencing in my life since making that prayer, when an astonishing event took place in my car. I wasn’t looking for it, but all of a sudden my car filled up with the presence of God. I was experiencing this tremendous love of my heavenly Father for me, being poured all over me. It was like football coaches being doused in Gatorade in victory celebrations, except this was the love of God flowing all over me! In an instant I knew that God was very real and very personal and He loved me!
Why did this happen to me some 40+ years after being baptized as an infant; after years of instruction in Catholic grammar school, Catholic High School and Catholic College; after years as a practicing Catholic, some of it as a daily communicant? Why now? Why not years ago? How did I miss such a tremendous blessing, an encounter with Jesus Himself and the power of the Holy Spirit? What triggered it now, so relatively late in life?
The answer is, it was a response to hearing the gospel preached in the power of the Holy Spirit at a Life in the Spirit Seminar. This caused expectant faith to rise in my heart and allowed me to believe that an intimate encounter with Jesus could happen to me. A personal decision to make Jesus Lord of all my life was the triggering agent. Many years later I am still experiencing my Father’s love for me, not always in that dramatic a fashion, but every bit as real to me. I am no longer empty and searching for meaning for my life, I am fulfilled in Jesus! I’ll never stop thanking Jesus for filing my life with His presence and power.
Fr. Ranerio Cantalamessa is the preacher to the Papal Household. He preached an Advent Meditation in December, 2005 to the Pope and his household entitled "Faith in Christ Today and at the Beginning of the Church". You can find the full text at: www.cantalamessa.org/en/2005Avvento1.htm
Fr. Cantalamessa in the meditation makes the point that at the beginning of the Church the proclamation of the Kingdom contained two parts, the preaching or gospel (kerygma) and the teaching or ethical norms (didache). Cantalamessa says that "faith as such flowers only in the presence of the kerygma and what is preached is the Kingdom of God has come, Jesus is Lord! It (preaching of the gospel) alone can bring one to salvation. To come to faith is the sudden and astonished opening of the eyes to this light. "
Fr. Cantalamessa goes on to say that the general situation in the Church today is "low awareness of the importance of the initial choice by which one becomes a Christian, since Baptism is normally administered to children, who do not have the capacity to make it their own choice. What is most accentuated is not so much the initial moment, the miracle of coming to faith, but rather the fullness and orthodoxy of the content of faith itself."
The Catholic Church today has a collapsed lung. We have breathing problems. The lung of teaching is operative but the preaching lung has lost its air, it is empty. We assume today that everyone is converted since they were baptized as an infant. It’s all maintenance now. Therefore most sermons today are of the teaching nature only. We are breathing with only one lung.
Preaching of the need to make Jesus MY Savior and MY Lord is non-existent today. We are never taught that it requires a decision to be able to say Jesus is MY Lord. A decision as to what I am going to do with all of my life. If Jesus is not Lord of my life He is not my Savior either. It’s a package deal! It’s not about just coming to Church on Sunday. It’s a decision to recognize that Jesus has full authority over me. I hand the reins of my life over to Him. I decide that I don’t want to live anymore for myself but to live for Him.
Are we Christians today driving the car of our life, with Jesus in the back seat presumably? Jesus is in our lives we believe, but He’s not our life! No need to be a fanatic for Jesus we say. We are running our lives thank you very much Jesus. Well, I don’t think Jesus rides in the back seat for anybody. Salvation means to give Jesus the keys to the car, hop in the trunk, slam it shut and tell Jesus to fill the car up with anything He wants and go wherever He wants. Anything short of that makes me a baptized pagan, no matter how often I go to Church.