Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives for his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 1. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Halfway Christians

  • April 2, 2015

There should be no ifs, ands or buts. Christians are called to live like Christ.  

Those blunt words of Pope Francis apply year round but are particularly worthy of reflection at Easter.

The Pope recently lamented that the world has too many “halfway” Christians. These are people who profess to accept Christ but are “spiritually whimsical.” They put conditions on their faith. Yes, they believe in the Risen Lord — for the most part.   But for many of these people, faith comes with an “if” or a “but.”

“How many of us Christians find ourselves poisoned by the dissatisfactions of life?” asked Francis. “Yes, God is good, but… We are Christians, but… Yes, I want to be saved, but…

“This is how the heart becomes poisoned.”

That poison doesn’t kill the body but it deadens the soul. “It takes away joy,” said Francis.

It turns people into halfway Christians, grumpy Christians, sullen Christians. Christians so ready with qualifiers or excuses that their hearts become closed to the promise of salvation, to the cross.

Easter can be the antidote. Christ’s triumph over death is the source of Christian hope. For those who can open their hearts to its message — setting aside their “ifs and buts” —  Easter reveals how sorrow is defeated by joy, cruelty by mercy, anger by forgiveness, despair by hope. It shows that death is not the end but merely a new beginning.

Pope Francis made this point a year ago when he reminded us that Easter is not about the empty tomb. The tomb represents what happened on Calvary, the past, but the Resurrection speaks to what is yet to come. Don’t look back at the tomb of a dead man, said Francis, but instead look forward and rejoice in the Risen Lord.

“Jesus is not in the sepulchre. He is risen!” said Francis. “He is alive. He is with us!”

Francis cautions that Jesus is not found in earthly comforts, in possessions, money, power or status. Those material distractions have contributed to a global problem that the Pope calls an attitude of indifference. It’s an attitude partly fuelled by the ifs and buts of the halfway Christians, those who profess faith yet find excuses that prevent them from unconditionally taking up the cross.

Don’t be a “lukewarm” Christian, pleads the Pope. Look beyond the tomb. Reject the temptation to attach an if or but to your faith and then walk on a path to true happiness.

Easter proclaims where joy abounds. It resides in the same places where Christ is found — in consoling, in healing, in loving, in understanding, in forgiving. It is found in places where “mercy has been victorious.”

It is found in Easter and the promise of life everlasting.

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