On the road to Cuneta Astrodome: a dialogue with a Jesuit aspirant who became a “Born-Again” Christian
June 27, 2009 2 Comments
Last night, I agreed to watch a Worship Concert with Tommy Walker held at the Cuneta Astrodome, featuring Tom Hughes with special guests Jonalyn Viray and Donita Rose. My colleague here at the Manila Observatory gave us free tickets; she was one of the organizers of the concert. I know that this is a Protestant event, something equivalent to a Catholic Eucharistic Congress. But I agreed to watch anyway, to see how things are done in other ecclesial communities. Besides, I may get a chance for a dialogue of Faith.
We were suppose to meet at 5:00 p.m. at the Manila Observatory’s Lobby; the concert is at 6:00 p.m. But Genie Lorenzo, our other friend, is still consulting with her thesis adviser. Genie is making air pollution samplers and places them along EDSA avenue. Genie is a Catholic who loves concerts. We shall be late.
While waiting at the lobby, I met our other companion, a friend of Genie: JM. He’s a shorter than I but stockier. JM told me that he studies at the Marine Science Institute at the University of the Philippines. He knows Loric Bernardo, my fried who also studied there. But Loric is working on Oceanography; JM is with marine products.
Genie arrived at 6:30 p.m. together with two of her friends. She apologized. She asked us to board her car. It would take at least an hour to go to Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City. But considering that Filipinos normally start an hour late, we would still be on time.
Inside the car, JM and I continued our discussion. The following dialogue is not from an audio recording, but the essence is the same:
Me: Are you Catholic?
JM: Before. That was three years ago. I am now a “Born Again” Christian.
Me: That was very recent. What made you jump ship?
JM: I was even thinking of joining the Jesuits at that time. The Jesuits are organizing this Monday group and we meet in a place along Katipunan. There they talk about vocation. Our Jesuit mentor asked me, “When was the time that you feel that Jesus loves you?” I blurted out some answers, but they do not come from the heart. They are too mechanical. I was restless. I searched. One day I found myself hearing a pastor preach. His words touched my heart. At last, I found what I have been seeking.
Me: So if you will hear a very good sermon by an excellent priest, will you go back to being Catholic?
JM: No. There are also other reasons. My prayers are being heard by God. Even simple prayers like, “Lord, I need to be there on time. I hope there is no traffic.” It is difficult to explain, but my relationship with Jesus now is with the heart, it is as if He is really my friend.
Me: That is interesting. It surprises me that your reasons for leaving the Church are subjective. Usually, people leave the Church because of a particular dogma that they cannot accept.
JM: It is not like that.
JM: All Christians believe that the basis of truth is the bible.
Me: But who made the bible? How do we know that the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Barnabas should not be in the bible?
JM: I don’t know. These Gospels have in them that contradict what the four gospels say.
Me: The books in the bible were decided during the Council of Carthage in about the fourth century. In this council, the bishops in the world gathered to make this decision.
JM: Can the bishops make a mistake?
Me: For Catholics, once the bishops gather for a council (ratified by the pope), what they decided as true is forever true.
JM: Our pastor said that the early Christians are Jews. That is why in our church we read commentaries on the bible by Jews.
Me: The Talmud?
JM: No. I cannot still handle that.
Me: But Jews generally do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah.
JM: That’s right. But there are messianic Jews who do.
Me: Why not read instead the commentaries of Fathers of Church, the Christians who succeeded the Apostles?
JM: Like St. Auguestine?
Me: Yes, but St. Auguestine is already in the fourth or fifth century. I am referring to the those who lived in the earlier centuries after the Apostles, like St. Athanasius and St. Irenaeus. In this way you will see that the Church was never destroyed from the time of the Apostles up to the present.
JM and I never get to talk at the concert. It was a rock concert interspersed with preaching by pastors and testimonies of Christians like Donita Rose, the MTV host. I stand when everyone stands and sit when everyone sits. I clap at the end of the song, but I could not dance and wave my arms and sing. This is a protestant worship service and I know the proper way to worship God–through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. But the Catholic Mass is fast becoming similar to that of the Protestant worship service. I have seen many churches transformed to concert halls–even the Church of the Gesu here in Ateneo de Manila University. But the wind is now changing, with more conservative clergy getting ordained. As Fr. Z used to say, “brick by brick, folks!”