HOMILY: The Requirements for Being Christian

6th Sunday of Easter | April 30/May 1, 2016

Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World. To see the archive of all his posts, just click here: Salesian Sermons

PROTIP: You can take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the first reading.

What requirements should there be if we want to call ourselves Christian?

Do we need to attend Church weekly?

Do we need to be registered in a parish?

Do we need to have received the sacraments?

Do we need to give up meat on Fridays during Lent?

How about the choices we make?  Can we still call ourselves Christian if we have had an affair?  Or gotten an abortion?  If we are divorced and remarried or living with our girlfriend?

Do we need to be straight?  Do we have to speak English?  Can we vote?

Do we have to agree with every teaching of the Church?  

If not, are there certain beliefs that we must hold?  Which are the optional ones?

Can we dress in jeans?  Do we have to like organ music?  Do I have to shake hands at the sign of peace?  

What requirements are there?

It is a difficult question, isn’t it my friends.  

For in answering this question, we are inevitably start making judgements.  Judgements about what is of the utmost importance for our relationship with Christ and his Church.  Judgments about who is worthy to bear the name of Christ.

And in making these judgements, we inevitably draw a line in the sand in which some people are in the circle and others are not.

And yet, this question is not new.

It is the question that faced the earliest the disciples.

Did Christians need to first be Jewish in order to share in this life of Christian discipleship?

Did they need to be circumcised?

Did they need to eat certain foods and cleanse their homes in certain ways?

Did they still need to go to the Temple?

How they answered these questions would define the Church.

And yet, the process by which they arrived at these answers was remarkably fluid.

Although this 1st reading makes it seem very cut and dry, the debate did not end with this Council.  Even major figures like Peter and Paul would constantly refine their position in light of new situations.  Both men would be challenged and would challenge other members of the Church as they strived to understand what God was doing amidst his people.

And that, my friends, is the key to this entire Sunday.

At the end of the day, it is not human beings who decide who is a Christian.

It is Christ, working in and through His Spirit that remains alive and at work in our world, in our Church and in each of us.

The Spirit who descended upon a group of Gentiles before they had ever met the Church.

The Spirit who sent the disciples forth to speak in every language.

The Spirit who gathered the frightened, broken remnants of the 12 and fused them back together into a Church that would hold on despite persecutions and scandals that continue down to the present age.

The Spirit who guided those early leaders into drawing ever wider circles so that all could one day find their homes within this Church.

And it this same Spirit that continues to work among our Church to this very day.

Finding a niche for each of us.  Where we find our purpose, our mission, our vocation.

Parents who find their calling in raising their children into faith-filled disciples and good human beings.

Musicians who find their calling in sharing their gifts each week.

Social workers and teachers who find their calling in walking beside those entrusted to their care until they become who God is calling them to be.

Seniors who find their calling by bearing witness to the quiet heroism that comes with bearing one’s suffering with perspective and perseverance.

Each and every one of us when we find our passion and devote our lives to it, whether it is helping unwed mothers or homeless veterans, cleaning a nearby park or cheering on athletes at the Special Olympics, inviting others to journey to the font in RCIA or making meals for loved ones after a funeral.

So what is the requirement to be Christians my friends?  At the end of the day, it boils down this.

We must encounter Christ.  We must become Christ.  We must share Christ with the world.

By being the one Christ called us to be.   May God be Praised.

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