Homily on Spiritual fitness

One of the phrases used by athletes at the Olympics when they talk about how they prepared for it is “I put myself through a lot of punishment but it was worth it in the end!” Yes, we are all impressed by what these athletes do, but we need to remember that being a Christian is like being an athlete. We get this from St Paul who writes to the Christians in Corinth, Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Cor 9:24) Later of himself he writes “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Now that’s a challenge for all of us today, to do our best to be what every Christian should be, spiritually fit.

A Sports coach faced with improving the fitness of an athlete does not start by imposing the same exercises on everyone he trains. No, he starts by assessing individual fitness. So the first question each of us need to ask ourselves today is “How spiritually fit am I?” Am I just cruising as a Christian… just going through the motions rather than really developing a deeper relationship with God?

We might start our analysis by asking ourselves why we are we here at Mass? Some of us will be here because it makes us feel better. We find comfort from familiar words and prayers and from a sense of the presence of God. For us the questions is : “Would still be faithful if being at Mass, saying out prayers, stopped being comfortable and soothing. Would we carry on then?”

Others of us may be here because we need help. We are faced with some big problem, some big sadness or difficulty in our lives, and in our struggle for a way beyond these difficulties we have turned to God for help. For us the question is: “Would still be faithful if things starting getting better for us?” It is noticeable that better-off people who can afford to go out and enjoy themselves at the weekend, on trips out, on holidays, on sport or shopping, are far less likely to be faithful practising Christians. All these other things seem much more fun! Would we lose the faith. if life became easy and smooth and other things attracted us?

Then there are some of us, and this is particularly true of priests, who come to Mass partly because that is what we have always done for more years than we care to remember. Prayer has become a habit, almost something we do without thinking. Now that may be good ; but the danger is that if our life gets disrupted in some way, then if prayer has become just a habit and has lost its depth, what seemed a fixed part of our life can quietly dissolve into nothingness.

This is precisely what Jesus is warning us about in our Gospel (Luke 13:22-30) He tells us to try our best “to enter by the narrow door”. I was talking to a fervent and fairly anti-Catholic Protestant Christian the other day, and discovered he had been brought up a Catholic. “Why was I never told” he said, “That being a Christian means committing oneself utterly and completely to the Lord Jesus Christ?”  I was saddened to hear that despite the fact that he must have heard Bible Readings like ours today, no-one had explained that this did not mean just going to Mass every Sunday and trying to be good. I’m glad if you do both those things, but unless we also talk to God and listen to God in our life, unless we make this time in church MEAN something to us, then we have missed the point completely. We heard what the Master said to people like that in the Gospel :“I do not know you.”

Sometimes people, especially British or Irish people, apologise to me if they have been crying during Mass. “I am sorry I made such a scene Father.”  “Don’t be sorry” I say “What better place is there than Mass to share our deepest sorrows as well as our deepest joys, with God!

The best exercise to get spiritually fit is prayer; but prayer does NOT mean asking God for things. Prayers means spending some time sharing our life with God, thinking through the day with him, so that gradually his continual presence seeps into our rather dull minds. But we must not be foolish athletes. We must not set ourselves a routine that is too much for us, so that after a few days we fail and sink back into nothingness. Better to spend 5 minutes concentrating on God, than to plan much longer and then fail to find the time. The long term goal must be give ourselves some punishment to get really fit, but God honours every little effort we make, so we must give ourselves time to get there.


Homily on Dumbledore’s wisdom

Seems a long time ago now that Harry Potter was all the rage, but it is worth remembering the good message the whole series of books reveals especially in a world that seems obsessed with self-advancement, of what is happening to me personally inside! 

There was a programme exploring this some years ago that was euphemistically entitled ‘modern spirituality’! It appeared that the term “spirituality” nowadays embraces such a diversity of meaning as to be virtually deprived of any significance and value at all. Instead it has become the catch-all term for self-advancement. Literally anything which makes me feel fulfilled and which plays its part in the building up of the individual self esteem and sense of well being can now be called spirituality, be it yoga – karate – gardening – classes in self-awareness – psychological counselling – foot massage or acupuncture. Most of the people who went in for this sort of spirituality were scathing of traditional religion and worship. They were not interested in corporate activities or the worship of God. For the majority, what mattered was the self; the fostering of a private well-being, the individual, isolated from his fellow men and women.

Now there is nothing basically wrong with all these activities as such. The problem is that we humans love to give things that help us more praise than is their due. To turn them into gods.  There have been times when I thought Harry Potter was heading in this direction. He had turned out at times through his stories to be a rather introverted teenager convinced that no-one could understand or believe some of the things he was feeling.  In this sense the author has expressed through her stories the common feeling of many teenagers.  The sad thing is that many adults get stuck in this teenage mould and end up like individual pills each wrapped in tin foil – hermetically sealed.

You can imagine how I cheered when Dumbledore – the greatest and best wizard in the story – advises Harry very strongly to trust his friends and share everything with them.  Indeed he goes further and points out that the relationship he has with his friends is the one thing that the wicked power will not be able to understand and thus will not be able to defeat!  The story is, thank goodness, not sentimental about this. The friendship Harry has with Ron and Hermione has many difficulties, and they certainly do not always agree. And that makes it even more valuable of course.  True friendship never simply makes us feel good; it always challenges us as well. 

This is exactly what St Paul is talking about in our 2nd Reading (Romans 13:8-10 today when he speaks of “the debt of mutual love”, the love that “is the answer to every one of the commandments.”  I was struck by the idea that true love is a debt. It is something that we receive and can never really repay and that we give knowing that there is no way it can really be given back.  In other words, the true life of God and with God cannot be the subject of calculation: of what I can get out of it or what I will get back if I give it. It is just all gift, or to use the technical term, it is just grace, and nothing else.

The other image that is worth thinking through is the main one from the 1st Reading. (Ezekiel 33:7-9)  The idea that we are called to be “sentries” for one another.  It reminds us, as does Harry Potter, that there is a battle going on between good and evil and that all of us may be in danger.  The modern idea that every one can do their own thing as long as they don’t hurt anyone is nonsense for two reasons.  First, because there is no way of knowing whether what we do will effect someone or not. Who would have thought that I could be killed by someone else smoking near me? Second because anyway actually everything I do and say and think actually does affect others whether it appears to or not. “No one is an island.” we are all inter-connected, and the idea that there are things I can do that will not affect anyone else is a dangerous nonsense.

So we need to be sentries, to stand on watch, looking out for one another and we need to ask God to give us the courage to warn others when we think they are wrong.  Harry, Ron and Hermione disagree, but they disagree as friends. They know that their disagreement springs from mutual love, from trust in one another.  They are actually joined in a solemn bond of friendship and support which we hope (see the next book) will end in the defeat of the evil that threatens them.

But note those last words – a solemn bond.  In our Gospel (Matt 18:15-20) Jesus reminds us that such things have an eternal significance “I tell you solemnly whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven.”  True friendship, real support for one another, actually makes God more present in the world.  When we think we can go it alone, we are alone, when we work together with our friends then not only do we have them with us, but we also have the power of God working within all that we do.  That is true spirituality, not seeking our own holiness or spiritual high, but losing our lives in love and finding, as we do so, that God is there with us.






Look at the good not just the evil

I had time to think about the natural world during my holiday for the last two weeks deep amongst the woods and trees of a National Park in Central France. For those of you who are into this sort of thing, I claim a clear sighting of a Pine Marten crossing the road in front of the car! Magic! The Gospel today, and last week, on seeds and sowing and reaping and weeding (Matt 13:24-43) reminds us how often Jesus uses examples from nature and agriculture to speak about God. Of course we must first remember that Jesus does not want us to take his examples literally. A bit further on from the passage we heard today, he warns his disciples about yeast (Matt 16:5-12) and they take him literally and think he is talking about bread. His response is quite sharp “Oh you of little faith”, he says, “Why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? ……. How is it you do not understand that I was not talking to you about bread?

But Jesus does want us to recognize that in the mystery of the workings of nature, indeed of the whole created Universe, we see glimpses of the mystery that is God. This is why I am infuriated when atheists try to use the Big Bang Theory of the beginning of the Universe – a theory first put forward by a Catholic priest and physicist – to try to prove there is no God. What is extraordinary to me, and probably to you too, is that they can work out, using very complicated Mathematics, how old the Universe is and how far away the Sun and the Stars are from us. How they do it beats me, as I have only to see a very simple Maths formula and immediately get confused, but the fact that they can do it, that there is an order in the Universe that they can discern and calculate from, is just one more reason for believing that there is a God, a power, behind the whole thing.

This idea of God as the power underlying the Universe is a fairly constant theme of mine, isn’t it? People tend to think it is a modern idea, getting rid of a rather childlike view of God, a response to the Scientific discoveries of the 20th Century. It is therefore interesting to note that a well-known hymn written way back in the 1830’s also uses this theme. Let me remind you :-                         

Immortal invisible, God only wise                                                                                                                                                                                                                 In light inaccessible hid from our eyes               

Most of what the scientists now know about light wasn’t known then, and yet the author gets right to the heart of it and places God there, underlying all that was later discovered about the Universe he created.

In the Gospel today however, Jesus talks also about things that go wrong in the natural world. Again we need to be careful not to take literally his description of the devil planting the weeds deliberately. He is using the story to remind us that the world is a place where all is not well, a place where there is evil as well as good. And that is certainly an important thing to remember. It is always dangerous to underestimate evil, not least the way it can be at work in us, often without us realizing it.

It is all too easy for me and you to go all dreamy about the beauty of nature and the wonder of the stars, and forget all the troubles we all face both personally and in the world as a whole. Surely the point Jesus is making is that if we zoom out from the things that are wrong and sad, and look at the glory of the created world as well, we will find it easier, not to understand, but at least to cope with all the sad things our world has to face. It is right for example that we should be really sad about the conflicts and cruelties going on in the world, but we must never forget all the unreported good things going on in the midst of all this. The acts of love, heroism and self-sacrifice that happen daily but are rarely reported. That’s surely what Jesus is getting at when he says that if we try to rip up the weeds we will pull up half the wheat as well. We might of course contemplate what the Universe would be like if there were no difficult things to face but what’s the point of that, since there is nothing we can do about it. Somehow we have to live with both the good and the bad, to face the fact that this is what Creation is like, and get on with making the best of it. For what else can we do?

So let’s look at the glory and goodness of the world that God has given us to live in, and use it to inspire us to work for a growth in the good crop even in the midst of the weeds – a crop which is love, kindness, gentleness beauty and truth. Let us be good farmers rather than stupid moaners! Let’s remember encouraging words from our 1st Reading (Wisdom 12:13)  There is no God, other than you, who cares for everything”,  and when we do get down, let us hear St Paul reminding us that in our weakness the Holy Spirit of God is within us and will come to us and help us to go on. (Romans 8:26)

Homily on Floating in God

How sad it is when some people think that prayer is zapping requests to a faraway God. Of course God accepts any kind of prayer, so he doesn’t ignore those who zap, but true Christian prayer should aim for something quite different; for, as St Paul says : In God “we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) I say this because more prayer is one of the things all Christians should think of doing during Lent – our 6 week period of preparation for Easter. But if “more prayer” means simply bombarding God with an even longer list of people and things we want to pray about, I fear we’ve missed the point. And the point is, that we don’t have to persuade God to listen to us, what we have to do is to learn to listen to God. God is always with us, but often we block God out, if we spend too much time talking AT God and not enough time listening.

Our Gospel today (Matthew 6:2-34) reminds us all how often we worry about things. And the more we have got, the more we seem to worry. I have pointed out many times before how the Media feeds on this very human tendency, giving us more and more details of the latest war or disaster or gloomy prophecy about the future. Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be concerned about such things, but if that concern just turns into worry, we have somehow got onto the wrong track, haven’t we? As Jesus says “Can any of you, for all (your) worrying, add one single (month) to your span of life?” True prayer then should be a turning to God to help us worry less. It should be a resting in the presence of God. To say to ourselves, and thus to God, as in today’s Psalm “In God alone is my soul at rest.” (Psalm 61:6)

There are several different ways of doing this. Simply being at Mass is one. We allow ourselves to be immersed in the sacred words and actions, assured that God is especially close to us. We do not have to think of words to say, or things to do, we simply open up our life to God. So Lent might be a time to think of going to a weekday Mass somewhere, as an additional time of prayer, perhaps getting to Church a bit before Mass begins, or staying a little after Mass ends, or joining in with others in the silent prayer of Adoration. Sometimes, in the midst of our worries, we may say, as in our 1st Reading (Isaiah 49:14-15) “God has forgotten me”, but then we must repeat to ourselves, maybe many times, God’s reply “I will never forget you.”

Some of you may have heard me before using the swimming analogy. Think of yourself as floating in a warm pool or a calm sea. Let the water support you. Let the troubles of life soak away. No wonder Baptism is one of the great symbols of the Christian faith! This isn’t escapism, because used properly such relaxation into God empowers us, and helps us to live more effective lives. Translated into prayer in daily life, this surely means each of us finding a way (apart from Mass) of floating in the presence of God. It is, of course, what the trendy modern world means by “Mindfulness”, although they fail to see God in all this. But we believers have an older word – “Meditation!”

There are as many different ways of doing this as there are different people. For some, the repetition of familiar prayers – such as the use of the Rosary – is a way that works for them. For others, a quiet reading of a passage from the Bible, not so much to study it, more to let God speak to us through it. Others may use music, or just the beauty of the natural world, or a photo or an object – a candle, an Ikon – a crucifix. But always as Christians this must be done not simply to think about ourselves, but to open ourselves up to God. That is why without the Mass, such things can just become self-indulgent.

Let’s finish today with a practical demonstration. Today’s Psalm is a particularly good choice. Let’s read it aloud quietly and prayerfully and having done so, let’s keep some silence and just float in the words that remind us that God is with us. Don’t worry about distractions – thoughts in our mind or noise from around us – just move back into the words, perhaps repeating the same phrase over and over again “In God alone is my soul at rest.”

Here is the full text :

In God alone is my soul at rest.                                                                                                                              My help comes from him.                                                                                                                                  He alone is my rock, my stronghold,                                                                                                                     my fortress I stand firm

In God alone be at rest my soul.                                                                                                                             For my hope comes from him.                                                                                                                            He alone is my rock, my stronghold,                                                                                                             my fortress, I stand firm.

In God is my safety and glory,                                                                                                                               the rock of my strength.                                                                                                                                         Take refuge in God all you people.                                                                                                                       Trust him at all times.                                                                                                                                             Pour out your hearts before him.                               

In God alone is my soul at rest.

God is between the words

One of the essential things about this season of Advent is its emphasis on the need for us to become more awake to the presence of God. God is always with us whether we realise it or not. That is the great Christmas message. Learning to realise that presence and thus to hear what God is saying is our Advent task, which is why so often we use the words in Advent “Come Lord Jesus” Our 1st reading today (Isaiah 7:10-14) tells us of Ahaz who did not want to listen to God. Offered a sign, he said “No” and made the excuse that it would put God to the test. In contrast, in our Gospel today (Matt 1:18-24) Joseph is prepared to listen, even through his dreams, and so is ready to play his part in the great mystery that is God coming to us, God with us, “Emmanuel”.

Ahaz didn’t want to listen to God because he was actually too busy doing his own thing, which included killing his son as a sacrifice – read 1 Kings 16 if you don’t believe me – so no wonder he didn’t want to hear what God might be saying to him! I guess none of us are evil as Ahaz, but we are certainly often so busy with our lives that we hardly ever find time to stop and look and listen for what God might be saying to us, and asking us to do. Perhaps you know that poem?

What is this life if full of care,                                                                                                                                                                       We have no time to stand and stare. (W.H.Davies)

 This, of course, is what the best kind of prayer is. Not rattling onto God about our problems and concerns, although of course God does care about them and is happy to listen. No, the best prayer is when we stop, and in the silence, in the space between words, listen to God.  Now I say the space between words because silence doesn’t have to be empty of sound. Many people find complete silence over a long period pretty difficult which, I suppose, is why so few people come to Holy Hour on Saturday night, or to our Annual Day of Prayer.

 So today I want to encourage you to find those small moments of silence in the midst of life. We often sing of the silence of Bethlehem – “Silent Night” or “How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.” – but actually, outside that stable, all would have been bustle and noise, wouldn’t it? That’s why there was no room in the Inn! Even inside the stable, Mary and Joseph would have been talking to one another, and later to those visiting shepherds. The silence then was the silence within the words.

 This is something that we should be practising every time we come to Mass. The words, the prayers we know well, and those that are new each week, are not meant to be simply listened to on the surface. That’s why the Church has been encouraging us priests recently to provide more silent pauses to help us with this. So you will notice that I say “Let us pray” and then stop for a moment before I say the prayer. It is also why we priests are not meant to gabble the Mass at high speed, (and neither are you), but to go at a steady pace that allows us more easily to absorb the words and pray beneath and within them. We priests are also supposed to slow down even more when we say the words of Jesus, “This is my Body”.. “This is my Blood”, again to allow the significance of what is happening to sink beneath the surface of our minds.

 This is also why our readers are meant to mark properly the full stops and commas in the texts they read to us, to really pause before they go on, and also to stop at the end of the reading and pause for a moment before saying “The Word of the Lord.” Yes, readers, please try to do this, because the silence between the words you read is as important, if not more important, than the words themselves.

 I thought I would leave you today with one of my favourite poems, “The Bright Field” by R.S. Thomas.

 I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

                                                                              on to a receding future, nor hankering after

an imagined past. It is the turning

aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

Prayer not Moralism

“The humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds.” Great words from our 1st Reading (Ecclesiasticus 35:12-19) that seem to link beautifully with Jesus’ story in our Gospel today. (Luke 18:9-14) There we hear of those two men praying, and Jesus tells us that priding ourselves on being good and perfect is not the way to approach God. Far better simply to say, in all humility, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”  I say “seem” to link with our Gospel because sadly, if we read to the end of that Old Testament Reading, we see how disappointing it is; as it degenerates into just the kind of attitude that Jesus was attacking, because there the humble man is also sadly described as virtuous.

This particular Book was written very late by Old Testament standards, probably less than 200 years before the birth of Jesus, which is why some Christians chucked it out of the Old Testament in the 16thC, and put it in a separate book called “The Apocrypha”. It is however full of much wise stuff on how to live a good life in the sight of God, and that God loves all of us, not just important people : as we heard, “The Lord is no respecter of personages.”

The problem is, as I hope we all know, that this kind of good talk can lead to the idea that following God is principally about being good, being perfect. Now Jesus certainly wants us to aim high in this respect, but as his story today shows, he’s keen to stress that being loved by God does NOT depend on us being good. This is why he has such conflicts with that group of Jews called Pharisees who, like some Christians today, turn religion into moralism.

Jesus shows us a different way, thank goodness, and his teaching links more clearly to much older stories from the Old Testament. Jacob, who lies to his father to get his brother’s inheritance, and yet running away guilty, is given a vision of heaven, which we call Jacob’s Ladder. Joseph’s brothers, that most know from the musical “The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”, who sell their brother into slavery, and yet in the end, through tears of repentance, become the beloved ancestors of the People of Israel. And then there are the People of Israel themselves a few generations later, led through the desert by Moses, constantly failing to trust in God, and moaning like mad about everything.  Sounds a bit like us doesn’t it! 

Yes, God may get exasperated with them, as he does with us modern humans, as we continue to kill one another, leave our fellow humans poor and hungry, and generally fail to be as kind as we could be.  But although all this saddens God, he does not cease to love us. Think too of the great King David, another hero from the Old Testament who uses his power to steal another man’s wife, and then arranges for the man to be killed in battle. Yet David too in his sorrow for his failings is loved by God.

This indeed is how we all learn to be good. Children learn to be good because they know their parents love them. If their parents didn’t love them, there would be no point in trying to be good; and it is the same with us in our relationship with God. That is why Jesus teaches us to speak to God as a Father, not just as an impersonal force. Of course he doesn’tt mean that God is literally an old Daddy sitting up in the sky, for the power underlying the Universe is way beyond that. Yet that power, coming to us in the man Jesus, teaches us that we must relate to him as if he were a loving parent, because to view God that way changes everything.

 We must therefore ask ourselves today what our relationship with God is like. Do we have at least some sense of God as a loving power watching over us, or is our religion simply a matter of outward observances, be they coming to Mass, attending a Baptism, or just trying to be good? If we do not know God in that personal way, we need to speak to him as if he were. Many non-believers, and many who have come to Mass for years, have come to a deep faith simply by saying, often with tears and in desperation as the man in the Gospel – “God, if you are there, please help me to realise this.” – and for them the world has changed. This is something all of us need to do regularly. This is what true prayer is, so that our faith is a living growing thing of the heart, and not some dull meaningless routine.



Moses and Jesus

I met a young woman this week who told me how desperate she became two years ago when her husband broke his back in an accident and became paralysed from the chest down. At the time, she expressed her anger at God by swearing at him in words I cannot repeat here (but you can guess!) and she drove home from the Hospital looking for a lorry to drive under. But all the way home, miraculously it seems, not a single lorry was sighted!  It seems a strange answer to prayer. Her husband remains paralysed, but despite immense difficulties, she copes, although she continues to swear – a lot!

That’s the point of our Gospel today ((Luke 18:1-8). Jesus does not suggest that we need to be polite when we pray, only persistent, because God is very close and is always listening; even if the answers we get are not exactly what we thought we wanted.

Our Old Testament Reading today (Exodus 17:8-13) is actually saying the same thing, but it also shows how difficult it is to read the Bible if we take it literally. Read on the surface, read literally, it seems to suggest that God will support us if we slaughter our enemies in battle. Indeed there are stupid fundamentalist Christians who read it that way! True Christians know that we are meant to treat such stories just like we treat Jesus’ story today of the corrupt judge and the nagging widow. Jesus is not suggesting that we should be like the nagging woman, nor that God is like that judge. Indeed, he explicitly says in this case, that God is NOT like the unjust judge.

As for our Old Testament reading, we know that Jesus explicitly disagrees with the idea of killing our enemies. Instead he tells us to love them and to do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:35) Remember too that when faced with those who came to arrest and kill him, he told his followers not to use their swords, for those who live by the sword will die by the sword. (Matthew 26:52) So why then do we read such passages as this one about slaughtering people? Well, most of all, we read it, as I am reminding you in all these talks on the Old Testament, because it teaches us more about Jesus and his background, and because all down the centuries Christian teachers have followed the example of Jesus and used even passages like these to talk about us and God.

Do you remember the story of the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus after the death of Jesus? (Luke 24:13-35) They know their Old Testament well, but see no hope for themselves in its pages, no way of understanding why Jesus the Son of God had been killed in such an awful way. Then Jesus comes and walks with them, and explains things to them, showing them “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets…  what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

So where is Jesus in this story of Moses up on the mountain praying whilst his people slaughter the Amalekites? The first Christians would have known instantly. Moses stands for Jesus. In all the words and actions of Moses, Jesus is present. For Jesus is not just a man who lived for 33 years 2000 years ago, but is also God with us, who “was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.” So are we back to saying that Jesus supported all that killing? Of course not. What we have to do is look at that story more closely, and link it to our Gospel.

Prayer can often be a battle, a struggle against our own sin, or despair, or anger. It can also sometimes be a battle to survive in a world where there is much evil, and suffering, and rudeness, and also much temptation, and where all too easily such things can overwhelm us. In the midst of this battle we are reminded to look up and see someone who with outstretched arms is eternally supporting us. Who then like Moses stretches out his arms in prayer? Who, like Moses, finds this work agonisingly difficult and yet goes on to the end? The answer stares down at us in every Catholic Church. Jesus, with his arms outstretched on the cross, is not just a suffering man in the last stages of agony, but is also God himself, praying and supporting each one of us. He is there for every human being, whether they believe in him or not, and that is something each one of us needs to remember every day, even when in our own struggles all we can do is shout at God, just like that young woman does.

Unless we try to realise this for ourselves, then most of what we do in Church will not make sense. Knowing God is with us, whatever we feel like, is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian!