St. Dominic and Welcoming Christ – A Spiritual Reflection
August 8 was the feast of St. Dominic. Last week we looked at how the website, ePriest, recently considered St. Dominic’s spirituality and lifestyle in light of Jesus’ approach towards material goods, generosity and giving. This week we will use the life and spirituality of St. Dominic as a point of departure to examine having a personal relationship with Christ.
To review – in Matthew 17:24-27, we read: When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes,” he said. When he came into the house, before he had time to speak, Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax? From their subjects or from foreigners?” When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him, “Then the subjects are exempt. But that we may not offend them,go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to them for me and for you.
ePriest continues that, Jesus drew from Peter the admission that collectors of the Temple Tax did not consider him the Son of God. “He was in the world and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him” (John 1:10-11). How this must have broken the heart of Christ to find himself unwelcome among those he came to save.
What does it mean for us to welcome Christ into our life? It must be more than a warm emotion. Rather it must be opening ourselves to the presence of him who comes to make his home among us and share our lives. “One doesn’t begin to be a Christian because of an ethical decision or a great idea, but rather because of an encounter with an event, with a Person, who gives new horizons to life, and with that, a decisive orientation.” (Pope Benedict XVI). Echoing this, ePriest mentions that, “We have a God who is so close to us and wants a relationship with us. He wants our time and our attention. The fruit of this will be interior peace and profound joy.” Pope Benedict also writes that this leads to a sense that we are not a coincidence nor an accidental occurrence of “material + chance + time. We were born on purpose for a purpose and Baptism starts this process of discerning who we are and why we are here. “The baptized (acquire) their sense of mission, through prayer, to become the witness of life and Christian commitment in all its forms. Thus all the faithful become missionaries in the places where they live.”
This is critical today. A society without Christ is empty and confused. A world without Christ is a world that knows neither its origin nor its destiny and will turn against man himself. Just like what happened “back then” in Matthew’s Gospel, today we see how frequently Christ is refused entry into the world, and how frequently he is marginalized by so many of those who have great influence in society and in our culture. He is deliberately excluded from the world of politics, from the world of science, the arts, of business, law, and medicine. Often he is treated in the media only when it chooses to ridicule him. Most importantly, Christ is refused by his own followers today. A Pew Foundation study on “Religion Among Millennials” found that only 48% of Catholics are certain that you can have a personal relationship with God. About half of Catholics 18-35 have left the Church; 41% of young adults are open to the possibility of leaving. (Pew Forum). And yet … on the bright side, adult baptisms are up 12% since 2014. 26% of lapsed/non-practicing Catholics are rethinking their relationship with the Church and are considering re-engaging their faith.
As followers of Christ, we must bring Him and His words of life back into our spheres of human activity. But you cannot give what you do not have. If you don’t love something, you will not pass it on to others. A decision for a personal relationship with Christ is the encounter that starts this mission.