Apostles Or Apostates

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We have read about those twelve Apostles who were commissioned by Jesus  to  proclaim the good news to  the people. It was the beginning of evangelisation and it should  last till the  return of  our Lord. In Jesus’ own words proclaiming the gospel to  all nations is a pre condition to be fulfilled  before  his glorious second coming. Evangelisation is  a continuing process and we  are the Apostles of our times. Our Mother, the Blessed Virgin, calls us  ‘Apostles of the end times’.  Through a series of apparitions and messages given  to difference persons during the  past  fifty years,  Our Lady  addressed her children with this  sweet title umpteen times.  Of course, we are  called to be Apostles. Our one and only mission is to proclaim the gospel. “Go into all the  world and proclaim the good news to  the whole creation”( Mark 16:15)  was the final command  given to us  by Jesus  Christ  just before his ascension into heaven.

Having said this,  are we   behaving like true  Apostles? Are  we worthy to  be called  ‘Apostles of the end times’? Blessed are those who can  sincerely claim that   they  discharge their mission of   evangelisation in all sincerity. If we are not apostles, we are  lukewarm christians. Because  every Christian is supposed to be  a missionary  by  nature, and if that fire is not burning within us, how else can we describe ourselves? Unfortunately, the reward reserved for  lukewarm christians is not   as we  desire.  ” I know your works; you are neither  cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither  cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth” ( Rev. 3:15). In spite of  such a severe admonition, there  is a ray of hope, in the sense that we have  the opportunity to  mend our ways and  return to God  with a  contrite heart.

If we fail the first test to become an Apostle in these  end times, at least try for the second slot  viz. that of lukewarm Christians. If we fail  in this attempt also,  our last  resort  will be an unenviable one. Chances are that we have already fallen to the worst   category which we call  ‘apostate’.

Apostasy has been  a subject   discussed at length in the Scripture.  There were apostates  at every  stage during the past two thousand years of christian history.  But the reason why  we should view  apostasy  with more seriousness in these days is that  our times are destined to see the largest  apostasy in history. Apostasy is defined as  ‘the abandonment or renunciation of a religious  belief’. Most of us  would be happy with  this definition, because  we have neither  abandoned nor renounced  our christian  faith.

Complacence is good, but  only upto a  point. When we say that we remain in christian faith, we are  bound to  live   a life of christian witness. This is the area where many of  us  trail behind. Preaching is  one thing, and living the faith is something different.  Let us start with  the words of   our Lord.  ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’ (Mathew 15:8). We understand that such kind of  hypocrites were  common in the time of Jesus. Now the  only difference is that their  numbers  have grown manifold. 

If apostasy is loss of  faith,  Jesus  was  referring  exactly  to this phenomenon when he  lamented; “And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he  find faith on earth?” ( Luke 18:8). We should take his  warning seriously, because  when it comes to  using words, Jesus was a miser. For an ‘Yes’, he said ‘Yes’ and for a ‘No’ he said  ‘No’. Nothing more, nothing less.  So when he warned us  that   there is  the  strong possibility of  a great apostasy in the  last generation, we should be doubly cautious. Because  we belong to that generation!

Apostasy is a grave sin so much so that the  Catholic Church prescribes the  capital punishment of  automatic excommunication to  a believer turning apostate.  Canon Law  no. 1364  states that ‘without prejudice to the prescript of can. 194, an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication’. When compared to offences  like  murder, adultery, theft or  giving false witness, the problem with apostasy is that  on  most of the occasions it does not manifest itself. In other words,  apostasy can  be a latent sin, which will  manifest at the appropriate  provocation, most important of them being the times of trials when we have to  openly proclaim our faith in  Christ.  

With this basic understanding about  what  constitutes  apostasy, let us proceed. Apostasy is  drifting away from  true faith  after accepting  Jesus as our  Saviour and Redeemer.   In that sense, to  become an apostate, one need not  openly deny  Christ. Outwardly, you may be a good Christian, church going, god fearing, confessing and attending  Holy Mass regularly. Your house may be a repository of  sacred articles and images. Bible may be installed at the most prominent  place. You can very well convince others that  you are a good Christian.  But  in spite of all these, if you do not believe that  Jesus Christ is the  one and only saviour for mankind, if you  doubt his divinity, if your heart does not go with  the  dogmas taught by the Church about the incarnation, passion, crucifixion,resurrection and  ascension of Jesus Christ, you have already embraced apostasy.  If your intellect does not permit you to believe in an omniscient God who is Creator of heaven and earth, if  you do not  believe in the Holy Spirit, Holy Catholic Church, forgiveness of sins  resurrection of  body and life everlasting,  you are apostates.

When Jesus talked  about apostasy, he had in mind a generation, who even while  presenting themselves as good Christians, had lost the essentials of  Christian faith. They are  like  salt without saltiness. ” Salt is good; but if salt has lost its  taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for  the  soil nor  for the manure pile; they  throw it away” ( Luke  14:34). Jesus says that we are the  salt  of the earth ( Mathew 5:13).  It means that we should become the  taste of Christ in this otherwise dull world. Evangelisation means adding that  little salt called  Jesus Christ to  our neighbor’s life, so that  he  will  feel the taste of truth in his heart.

This is what Apostles  did. And this is what an apostate can never do. Because he himself doesn’t have that salt in him. Then how can he give it to others? A  person born into the tribe of  Benjamin, educated under Gamaliel, brought up as a Pharisee and who finally tasted the salt  called Jesus Christ, wrote the following for our  guidance. ‘For  that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction'( 2 Thessa. 2:3). Here ‘that day’ stands for the  end  of the times and rebellion is  the euphemism for  apostasy.

Apostasy will reign in the  end times. And it will  spread like  wildfire. Catechism of the Catholic Church  gives us an idea of what  it will look like.

‘ Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers (cf. Lk 18:8; Mt 24:12). The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth (cf. Lk 21:12; Jn 15: 19-20), will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of His Messiah come in the flesh’ ( CCC 675).

Church is very  clear  about the coming final trial that will shake the  faith of many believers. Man will be tempted to  look for  an apparent solution to their problems, not through  faith in Christ as we are supposed to do, but through other means which originates from Antichrist and anti-christian ideologies. Unfortunate thing is that  the price they have to pay for it is apostasy from the truth. Remember  that Jesus is the TRUTH. Apostasy means  deliberately rejecting Jesus Christ, who  died for  us so that we may  gain eternal life and rejecting him is the sure way to  eternal death.

Return to faith and bend your  knees. You might see many around you  falling away from faith in these days. Most unexpected of  persons will  fall. When you see them fall from faith, open your Bible and read aloud.

“A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you’ ( Psalm 91:7). Let us  pray for  protection  from  the deception of the evil one  whose only intention is to  separate us from Christ. Should we  end up as apostates after starting the race as apostles?

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