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?