The Sublime Majesty of Jesus Christ
Amid the chaos which is now the Catholic Church, and with sexual, financial, and moral scandals afflicting the very foundations of the Church, not to mention the many heresies which have emanated from seminaries, religious orders, and Catholic Universities over the last few years, it looks as if much of the Church will be swept away in a similar fashion to the destruction of the Twin Towers in 2001. It all looks absolutely dreadful, but there are signs of hope outside the Catholic Church.
Orthodoxy carries on like some ancient and splendid Imperial Byzantine procession with the Emperor and Empress in all their glory and stunning apparel. The main line Protestant churches look ready for extinction, and nowhere is the more obvious than in Calvinist Scotland where the legacy of the ferocious John Knox has given way to the amazing scene of Gay Church of Scotland ministers being able to marry each other! The Lutheran, Presbyterian and Anglican Churches are following suit. They are imploding, the congregations are dwindling. The Faith is dying? Why?
I think that it would be safe to say that it is because the very person of Christ has become distant to so many priests and ministers. The desecration of Biblical teaching has come about because of the amazing and faithless denigration of the Bible as the word of God. For if we re-interpret Scripture from a modern perspective, and deny its authenticity and relegating it to another department of ancient literature then Faith simply falls apart. So many priests and ministers over the last 50 or more years have not been taught to reverence Scripture but to analyse it, and this has meant that they have begun to analyse Jesus and not love him. If you go into a Catholic library you will find volumes on Jesus written by experts and academics who have no relationship with their Lord and Saviour. They will talk about him, tell you what, in their opinion he really said in the Scriptures, which will be reduced to very few sayings, and the rest of his words in the Gospel will be considered as the fabrications of the writers of the Gospels, whom they will deny were the Evangelists.
To stand before Christ, to be thrilled at his presence, to be overcome by his love, to be spurred on to take his Good News to the whole world is beyond these male and female theologians and scripture scholars. They live in the hothouse atmosphere of the University, and are beguiled by their secular academic peers. Their well heated University Halls lack all adventure, all desire, all heroism. The Seminaries are suffocated by political correctness and a dreadful clerical smugness. The spirit of St. Paul or St. Francis, St. Francis Xavier, or a John Wesley or a George Whitefield are quite beyond these people.
Recently we have been reading at lunch time three books about converts from Islam, and to say that these books were absolutely stunning would be an understatement.
The first book was about Bilquis Sheik a highly aristocratic Pakistani woman, who was connected with the political and cultural world of Pakistan at the highest levels. Bilquis had organized a government plan Called “Simple Living Plan”, which was described by one official as “the most wonderful program our country ever had.” Beautiful, haughty and alone (Her husband had abandoned her in her 40’s) Bilquis was invaded by God through visions, and extraordinary experiences, which led to her conversion. Her life is told in her marvellous autobiography “I Dared to Call Him Father” which cannot be read without great emotion. The same goes for Nabil Querishi and American of Pakistani origin, whose account of his conversion to Christ took place while he was a medical student at a University in America.
Nabil’s autobiography, “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus”, narrates his early childhood spent, in of all places, Dunoon (Nabil’s Pakistani father was in the U.S. Navy stationed in Scotland during the closing years of the Cold War Era), and describes what it was to be the son of very devout and good Muslim Parents. When the family returns to America when Nabil is about ten, he manages to acclimatize to the American way of life, and still retain his Muslim Faith. Amusingly he regrets losing is Scottish accent.
When he goes to College to study Medicine, he notices, one day, a fellow student reading the Bible. He is amazed as he has never see a Christian reading the Bible before. He becomes a great friend of the Bible reading Christian, David and so begins a great friendship that leads him to Christ. David, a natural evangelist, and highly intelligent, is like another Virgil leading Dante to the gate of Heaven.
The final book that we are still reading at present is “A wind in the house of Islam” by David Garrison. To say that the book is brilliant would be something of an understatement. In it we see the millions of Muslims converting to Christianity. We see Berber Muslims in North Africa discovering Jesus. We see Bangladeshi Muslim converts retaining their Muslim identity, remaining in their Mosques, and converting their fellow Muslims all the while remaining fairly anonymous to the majority of their Muslim brethren. We see other Bangladeshi Muslim converts proclaiming their Faith fearlessly. We are amazed at the conversions of many Muslims in Indonesia, and humbled by the heroic converts to Christianity in Iran, many of whom are martyrs.
In all these accounts, the personal appearances of Jesus, either by way of dreams or visions, the many miracles and healings that have converted these Moslems, as well as the all too human side of Muhammad, as opposed to the luminous divinity of Christ, leaves one dumbfounded. What is the message for us Catholics? It is a very simple one.
Why are things so dreadful in the Church? Well one reason is that we are all too Churchy. The liberals and the progressives, the hyper orthodox or ultra-traditionalists live in a very Churchy World, with the former wanting to change the rules or bend the rules, and the latter getting carried away by all the rules. Too often both groups forget Christ, who is both Divine and Human. These convert Muslims are in the main evangelical Christians. They know Jesus, not through the eyes of the theologian, or scripture scholar, or R.C.I.A. group but they have come face to face with Him in all his glory, all his beauty and all his love. Before this amazing sight of millions of Muslims converting to Christ, all the controversies, important and vital though they be, ultimately pale into insignificance, for if the Cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and laity who want to change the law not simply of the Church but of Christ, on such immensely serious things as marriage, divorce, homosexuality, and sex, had truly met Christ in their lives, truly responded to his loving call, wanted to give their lives totally to him, regardless of the cost, then the Catholic Church would not be in the catastrophic state that it is in.
If we immerse ourselves in the life of Christ, allow him to live in and through us. If we see him as our daily companion, our greatest friend, both a brother and a saviour then the Church will be restored. The sad and tragic behaviour of Bishop Barros, the immoral and mad behaviour of Bishop Juan José Pinenda Fasquelle, Cardinal Maradiaga’s auxiliary in the Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa, and the heretical German bishops, seem to have forgotten the simple truths of the Gospel, that demanding though it is, it is the only way to peace and joy, the only way to know and love God. It is the great tragedy of our times, and supremely ironic that simple Muslims can embrace the love of Christ, while the leaders, not only of the Catholic Church, but of all the main line branches of Christianity, run from the Divine love of Jesus into the arms of homosexual lovers, plunge their arms into the funds of the Church, and run to the gates of Hell, but not with Dante and Virgil but with Mephistopheles, who with honeyed words and miraculous tricks promises them their wildest dreams and all the while these poor clerics, inebriated with pride and worldliness, topple into Hell. They have no one to blame but themselves, for either they never wanted to know Christ, or ran away from him because they had never really wanted to love him. Christ is the head of the Church, but if we do not meet him, if we do not lovingly run to him, and walk with him, if we do not become like children, there is no hope for us. The reason why the Church is in the appalling mess it is today is that so many of its members, clerical and lay, have known about Church practice, but have not known Christ truly, intimately, lovingly. Let us follow Christ with the love and the faithfulness, the joy and the peace of these wonderful Muslim converts to Christ, and let us try and be true Christians rather than simply Churchy ones. We do not need to read the latest theological book on Jesus, the latest Biblical commentary by a University Professor, we simply need to know him.
When Bilquis Sheik wanted to know more about Jesus, when her supernatural experiences were turning her world upside down, she went to see the local Christian Missionary. To her irritation the Pastor, David Mitchell was away, and so she had to be content with his wife, Synnove.
Let us leave the last word to Bilquis:
To Mrs. Mitchell I ventured, “do you know anything about God?” She sank down into one of the wooden chairs and looked at me strangely; the only noise in the room was the low hiss from the flames in the fireplace. Then she said quietly. “I am afraid I don’t know too much about God, but I do know him."