Are you Christian?
- Written by Shane Neese
I have never been one to keep silent about issues that affect others. And I am not going to start now.
I have heard much back and forth about politics of late, and have said my piece about where I stand. But as a Christian, as a Religious, and as a Priest, I must say more – regardless the personal cost.
Many that voted for the current president say they voted for him because of changes he promised, they liked what he said about “making America great again,” and looked the other direction at the racist actions and the hatred that spewed from his mouth. They turned a blind eye to how he treats women, how he refuses to pay for work done. These same people are remaining silent in the face of what is happening right now in our country and around the world.
Silence is consent. If you are not actively raising your voice against the violence that has been an ongoing part of the campaign and now the administration, then you are honestly part of the problem and somewhere deep down, you agree with it. Otherwise, you would be fighting against it.
Strong words I know, and I know that some will be offended and outraged that they were called out as part of the problem. Oh well! Sometimes the truth hurts.
Many have forgot what it means to be Christian. Oh, they say all the right words, sometimes, and use God’s name constantly, and swear on the bible that they are followers of Christ. But a true follower of Christ would be hurt to the quick with how humans are being treated right now in this country and yes, around the world.
A true follow of Jesus would be shedding tears over how the Indigenous people are being treated because of an oil pipeline; over the silence in Flint, MI over the contaminated water; over the cruelty being shown to immigrants here on US soil. The list goes on and on.
You say God hates queers, and blacks, and Asians, and Mexicans, and whoever else you dislike. I beg to differ with you. God doesn’t hate anyone – you do! And please don’t quote antiquated scripture verses that were meant for a specific people at a specific time. Don’t quote me that a man that lies with another man is an abomination while you stuff your face with ham and wear clothes made of mixed fibers. You are not able to pick and choose what you wish to follow from scripture. It’s not a cafeteria line.
Jesus never once spoke against anyone except those that used religion to hold people down. Jesus never once turned his back on anyone, and even went so far as to break down the taboos of his own people. He touched lepers, he talked with Samaritans, he fed the hungry, healed the sick – regardless of who they were, and taught only love.
If you cannot bring yourself to show compassion to another human being, yet call yourself Christian, then you are part of the problem, and yes, I will say it, you are not a Christian. If you are so filled with anger and hatred because someone isn’t exactly like you and doesn’t think and believe exactly as you do, then you are part of the problem.
Loving Jesus and being a follow of Jesus requires us to love unconditionally, just as He did. To love without counting the cost, without looking at the color of their skin, or who they love, or what they wear, or where they are from. Loving Jesus means you love others. PERIOD.
And if by chance you are not popular with your friends because you choose to love as Jesus loves, then you need to find new friends – real friends.
Yes, the cost of following Christ is high. You must give up living for yourself and concerns about only yourself. You must think about others and their needs. You must refocus your attention to taking care of the least among us, and even to using your own resources if necessary. You must get used to having people hate you because you refuse to hate others. You must realize that everything you have – everything- is a gift from God and no, you didn’t earn it, and no, you don’t deserve it.
You must realize that God’s love for you is something that you can’t earn, can’t repay except in love of others, and something that no, you don’t deserve, but He loves you anyway, in spite of yourself. And because of that unconditional love God has for you – you are required to love each and every person the same way. You may not like how they are living their lives, or how they treat other people, but you are not called to judge, you are called to love.
You will no doubt say, “then why am I judging anyone and saying they are not Christian?” I am not judging, I am pointing out very simply that if you are not being Jesus to everyone, you simply are not being Jesus at all.
During this Holy Week and the upcoming Easter season I encourage you to reach out and love unconditionally, without counting the cost. Jesus loved you enough to die for you. Can you die to self and reach out in love and compassion to all?
4th Sunday in Lent Homily
- Written by Shane Neese
It was the first night of my first real job, second night of living in a new state! My mom and I had just moved back to Indiana. I was 20 years old, shy, quiet, wouldn’t look people in the eye, speak to someone I didn’t know, or instigate a conversation with anyone. I had gotten to work early so I could get a coke and relax before I started my first shift as a cook for Hardee’s. I glanced around the room and at another table up at the front was a girl wearing a Hardee’s uniform, and two other people with her. One looked like a thug. Scruffy hair and unshaven, t-shirt with the arms cut off, jeans with holes in them, and a look on his face that he would rather tear you apart than share the air with you.
So I kept my eyes down and tried to stay invisible. Well, it didn’t work. At one point I glanced up to see what was going on at that table, they were laughing and enjoying life. And who do I see staring at me? Him. And if his eyes could have bored holes I would have been dead. He sees me glance up, holds my attention and flips me off.
I was panicking inside, but I knew I couldn’t afford a fight on my first night of work, so I tried to diffuse the situation, by mimicking that I had a headache, maybe later and smiled. He started laughing, came over and sat down at my table, and we became instant friends, instant brothers for the entire time I lived there. I don’t want to think about the friendship I could have lost had I just ignored him.
In the first reading today, we hear the prophet Samuel being sent to anoint the new king of Israel. And that Samuel keeps thinking “Oh, it must be this one, he’s big and strong, or this one, or this one.” But God outright tells him not to judge by appearances or by a person’s stature. And that God judges by what is on the inside, and looks at what is inside a person when he calls them to a task. As it turns out, it is the youngest that God has chosen – one that would be considered of no account by human standards, he was a shepherd. He would have been the last son to be married off, the last in line of inheritance. Samuel was reminded “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
In the Gospel, we have a man born blind that is healed. But not just a man, a beggar, down there in status as the shepherds. After he is healed, he is called before the Pharisees, and this lowly man, one that would never be thought to allowed to speak with authority because he was just a beggar, takes the Pharisees to school. Again, God has used the least in the eyes of humans to do great things. Granted we know they didn’t listen to him, but he was true to the message in his heart.
We are called to serve God’s people, not to judge their worth or their merit, or their worthiness. Because, if that is the measure we are going to use, we would find ourselves without worth or worthiness, and without merit. Our call is to serve God, love God, and do that by loving all his creation. We have been called to plant the seeds, water them, tend them as they grow, feed them. But we are not called to weed them. God will take care of that in his time. We are called to be that light in the darkness as Paul says in his letter to Ephesians. Living as children of light. But if we are judging each other instead of loving each other, then in truth we are not light, we are darkness.
I made a very good friend that day back in 1989.
This week and as we get closer to Holy Week, is there someone in your life that perhaps you might have judged unfairly? Is there someone right now, that perhaps you can be light for in the darkness?