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The term “cafeteria Christian” is often used to describe those members of Jesus’ Church who pick and choose the doctrines they like and ignore or reject what they don’t like as if they were food items in a cafeteria. The problem with being a cafeteria Christian is that such a person isn’t a true believer. Jesus was very clear when He said, “Say, ‘Yes’ when you mean ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ when you mean ‘No.’ Anything beyond that is from the evil one.” (Mt 5: 37) In other words, Jesus expects His followers to be unambiguous in their total commitment to Him and His Church’s teaching. This Sunday, Jesus’ Church shows Him describing the faith of some of the Pharisees: “This people pays me lip service but their heart is far from me. Empty is the worship they do me because they teach as doctrines mere human precepts.” (Mk 7:6-7) They were putting more emphasis on washing their bodies than on cleansing their souls through lovingly keeping God’s Law. Jesus explained what love involves: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Live on in my love. You will live in my love if you keep my commandments, even as I have kept my Father’s commandments and live in His love.” (Jn 15:9-10) So in order to live in Jesus’ love keeping the commandments, what He taught His Apostles, must be heartfelt expressions of our faith in Him. Remember Jesus said that, “where your treasure is, there your heart is also.” (Mt 6: 21) Our heart, then, is where our treasure is. Each of us must ask our self: “Is Jesus Christ my treasure or do I treasure something else more?” What I treasure is where my heart is.
Jesus revealed that many of the Pharisees didn’t really treasure God and so their worship of Him was merely empty lip-service. An Irish Cardinal Bishop was asked a number of years ago to describe the Catholic Faith in Ireland. He said: “Ireland is a pagan country with a veneer of Catholicism.” The implication was that the majority of those who called themselves “Catholic” didn’t have Jesus and His Church, which are inseparable, as their treasure and the locus of their faith. The Irish demonstrated that when a majority voted to legalize abortion and so-called same-sex “marriage”, both of which are totally contrary to the teaching of Jesus and His Church. Many of those who voted for this immoral legislation considered themselves practising Catholics but were obviously paying only lip-service to Jesus and His Church’s teaching. Their hearts were somewhere else. In America surveys show that a large percentage of those who call themselves “Catholic” don’t believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus taught that, “Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him.” (Jn 14: 23) Jesus’ command to His Apostles at the Passover Meal after He changed bread and wine into His body and blood was “Take and eat … Take and drink … This is my body … This is my blood …Do this in memory of me.” Thus He enabled His Real Presence to continue in His Church until the end of time through the agency of His Church’s ordained bishops and priests. Cafeteria Christians choose not to adhere to all Jesus’ teaching but the bits and pieces that suits them. As someone said, “Jesus wants hearts not hypocrites.”
Pope St. Paul VI called for a “New Evangelization” to reach out especially to cafeteria Christians and help them to meet Jesus Christ in a personal relationship and live that relationship fully as faithful members of His Church. The motivation for this is found in the words of Moses: “What great nation is there that gods so close to it as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call upon Him? Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole Law which I am setting before you today?” (Deut 4:1-2, 6-8) If you replace the word “nation” with “Jesus’ Church” you recognize that there’s no religion whose God is as close to its members as Jesus Christ is to those who make Him their treasure and give Him their hearts. The Holy Spirit revealed through James that God is the source of all the good which He bestows on the faithful through Jesus. “All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of all light … Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. Be doers of the Word and not merely hearers only, deluding yourselves.” (Jas 1: 17-27)
Jesus wants to plant His word of life in our souls but we must open our hearts to receive it. He knocks on the door of our heart but it can be opened only from inside. Therefore we must not only hear God’s word but we must let it enter our heart so we can put it into action in our life. Jesus reminds us that words without actions are empty and ineffective. “A man who listens to God’s word but does not put it into practise is like a man who looks into a mirror at the face he was born with: he looks at himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. There is, on the other hand, the man who examines freedom’s Word and abides by it. He is no forgetful listener, but one who carries out the law I practise. Blessed will this man be in whatever he does.” (Jas 1: 23-25) Jesus’ Church isn’t a cafeteria: She has only one charter for orderly living, namely Jesus’ Commandments, and one menu for her members, namely Jesus Himself as the food for their souls. He warns the cafeteria Christian: “But because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spew you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3: 16) Are you a “doer” of God’s Word or a mere listener picking and choosing what suits you, or have you made Jesus, present in His Church, your treasure, the locus of your heart? (frsos)
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