What happens when Jesus is no longer relevant in the Church?

November 14, 2022

George Orwell once said that the “greatest enemy of clear language is insincerity.” This statement's significance is vital if a Catholic educator's responsibility is to convey the truth of Jesus Christ in a clear and cogent manner. It also presents us with a foundational question on the proper scheme of keeping Jesus relevant every time we encounter an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The early Church’s history appears to provide insight into the formation process where the intent was to convey the authentic message of Jesus Christ. Whether this was the primary scheme or merely a component of religious formation, it is probable to assert that the early Church intended to keep Jesus relevant at all costs.

The early church used distinctive language that conveyed Jesus as the Son of God, affirmed his teachings-the beatitudes and the sacramental life, and his death on the Cross. These distinctive truths could not operate in isolation from one another and provide a concept of the language used to convey the salvific actions of Jesus Christ. This clear and distinctive credal language gave rise to a zealous growth of the early Church because the message was unequivocally focused on Jesus Christ and the act of faith revolved around the development of an active relationship with him.

The relevance of Jesus to the Apostles.

In his treatise against Heresies, St. Irenaeus provides us with a very distinctive insight into how Jesus was relevant in the early Church;

By faith, we believe in one God, the almighty Father who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them. We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became man for our salvation. And we believe in the Holy Spirit who through the prophets foretold God’s plan: the coming of our beloved Jesus Christ, his birth from the Virgin, his passion, his resurrection from the dead, his ascension into heaven and his final coming from heaven in the glory of his Father, to recapitulate all things and to raise all men from the dead, so that, by the decree of his invisible Father, he may make a just judgment in all things and so that every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth to Jesus Christ our Lord and our God, our Savior and our King, and every tongue confess him.[1]    

The Early Church understood the importance of keeping the teachings of Jesus Christ relevant because the people of God had firsthand knowledge or received this knowledge through an oral and written tradition of the faith. There was a clear distinctive symphony of faith that proclaimed Jesus Christ crucified because for our ancestors in faith, Jesus was their whole world.


The irrelevance of Jesus Christ

What made the faith of our forefathers so alive was that the message was clear, Jesus died to save us from our sins with the hope to spend eternal life with God in heaven if we freely choose. However, the developed sentiment we encounter today is a Jesus who, at best, is viewed as a counselor and friend instead of the son of God who came to save us. When Jesus is not identified in relation to the Trinity, then Jesus the Son of God, and man becomes an ideology rather than the Incarnate Word.

The trajectory of this thought process then begins to seep into our religious education environment where Jesus is taught as a concept which bluntly means Jesus is whatever you want him to be. Now, we begin to develop false allusions to Jesus Christ apart from God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. And, at its worst manifestation, Jesus is not the path to eternal happiness; I am.

A renewed sense of hope

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He provides us with the clear door of salvation that only He can offer as the Son of God. Initiation into the Kingdom of Heaven is confirmed through the waters of baptism, and our final journey is confirmed through His death.

Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own, and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason, the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.

Jn 10: 7-18


[1] St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies (Lib, 1, 10, 1-3), 7, 550-554, Newadvent.org: Accessed February 2019. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310105.htm.

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