Voices July 08, 2019
Religions may be similar, but Catholicism is unique
15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
First Reading: Dt 30:10-14
Second Reading: Col 1:15-20
Gospel Reading: Lk 10:25-37
St. Paul asserts that everything depends on Christ: he is not just one option among many, but the only way, the only truth, and the only life.
In Christ, “all things in heaven and on earth were created.... Christ is before all things, and in him all things hold together.... For in Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven.”
The Church said as much in its declaration Dominus Iesus, which sought to recall “certain indispensable elements of Christian doctrine” to all of us.
“It is necessary above all to reassert the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ,” the document said bluntly. There is no alternative way of salvation.
Jesus is the only mediator between God and human beings. In him, “the incarnate Son of God,” we have the “full revelation of divine truth”; from him, “the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines forth.”
As people often note, the ethics of most religions are very much the same: do not steal, do not commit adultery, honour your father and your mother, etc. According to this Sunday’s First Reading, this is no more than we should expect, for God’s commandments are very near to all of us: in our mouths and in our hearts for us to observe.
Dominus Iesus confirms that “the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy” in other religions. “She has a high regard” for their “manner of life and conduct,” their “precepts and teachings, which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men.”
In fact, it says, “God, who desires to call all peoples to himself in Christ and to communicate to them the fullness of his revelation and love, does not fail to make himself present in many ways, not only to individuals, but also to entire peoples through their spiritual riches, of which their religions are the main and essential expression even when they contain gaps, insufficiencies, and errors.”
Nevertheless, the document asserts, “Jesus Christ has a significance and a value for the human race and its history” that are “unique and singular, proper to him alone, exclusive, universal, and absolute.” As St. Paul says, there is no other name under heaven by which we are saved.
Furthermore, the document says, Jesus “constituted the Church” for the salvation of all; “he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him.” In fact, other religions derive any efficacy they have from the “fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church.”
Had God not become man in the person of Jesus, and had Jesus not founded a Church, the love of neighbour commanded in this Sunday’s Gospel reading would have been useless.
Not only must we love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, but we must also love our neighbours as ourselves, Jesus told the lawyer who questioned him. When the lawyer rejoined, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus answered clearly and uncompromisingly. If, for Jews, their “neighbours” included even Samaritans, with whom they would normally have no dealings, then our own neighbours include even child abusers, terrorists, and people who have betrayed or injured us.
In Bruce Marshall’s book The World, the Flesh, and Father Smith, the priest tries to overcome spiritual pride by recalling what his mother told him: “You can’t see into other people’s souls, but you can see into your own, and so, as far as you really know, there is nobody alive more wicked and ungrateful to almighty God than yourself.”
Christ loves everybody, even you and me. As long as we have done good to the least of his brethren, we have done it to him.
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