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Christianity and other religions
I. Mother Teresa on Christianity and Other Religions
The following passages are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book "We Do it for Jesus," by Edward Le Joly.
1. A Government official told me (Mother Teresa): “Tell the truth, you would like me to become a Christian, you are praying for that? I answered him: “When you possess something really good you wish your friends to share it with you. Now, I think that Christ is the best thing in the world and would like all men to know Him and love Him as I do. But faith in Christ is a gift of God, who gives it to whom He likes.” The gentleman went away satisfied. (109)
The following passages are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book "One Heart Full of Love," edited by Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado.
1. Faith, we must remember, is a gift from God. One of our co-workers asked me once, “Do you want us to become Catholics like you? “ I answered, “I would like to give you the treasure that I possess, but it is not in my hands to give it to anyone, because it is a gift from God. What I am doing is giving you the opportunity to do works of charity. Through these works, you come closer to God because works of charity brings you closer to God. When God comes to you or you go to God, then you will have the chance to accept Him or reject Him. Accepting Him is the gift of faith.” (68)
2. I receive many applications from many congregations. Many religious from different congregations want to join the Missionaries of Charity. I always tell them, “Truly live according to your rule. You will have no reason to change.” Indeed, the constitutions approved by the church have the written Word of God. Therefore, let us ask for the grace to remain faithful to our constitutions and to belong only to Jesus.
Pray for us that we won’t spoil the work God has given us to do. As for me, I will pray and ask my sisters to pray for you. We will pray that you may grow in holiness through faithfulness to your rules and constitutions that have been approved by the church for the glory of God. There is no surer way to great holiness. May God bless you!. (140)
3. Q: What happens then with the followers of other religions such as Islam or Hinduism? Are they blessed by God also? Does God work in their midst also?
A: God has His own ways of working in the hearts of men, and we do not know how close He is to each one. We have no right to condemn, to judge, or to say things that can hurt other people for their beliefs. It is possible that a person has never heard a word about Christianity. Then we do not know how God is revealing Himself to that soul, or in what way God is forming it. So who are we to condemn anyone?
Q: Do you mean that it doesn’t matter what a person believe?
A: I am not saying that it doesn’t matter what a person believes. I believe that God has created each soul, that that soul belongs to God, and that each soul has to find God in its own lifetime and enter into his life. That is what is important. All of us need to seek God and find Him. (119)
4. Mother Teresa wrote to the then Prime Minister of India, Morarji Desai, on march 26, 1979. If it had been passed, it would have disastrous for Christianity and other religions in India.
“Religion is not something that you and I can dictate. Religion is the worship of God, and therefore it is a matter of conscience. Each one of us must decide how we are going to worship. In my case, the religion that I live and practice is Roman Catholicism. It is my life, my joy, and the greatest proof of God’s love for me. No one can deny that I dearly love my people more than myself and that logically I want to share the joy of having this treasure with them. But it does not depend upon me. I cannot force anyone to accept my religion---just as no man, no law, and no government can legally demand that anyone reject a religion that promises them peace, joy, and love. It is said that Mahatma Gandhi commented, “If Christians lived according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, there would not be one Hindu left in India.”
This bill that is pending before Parliament under the guise of religious freedom is a deception. There is no freedom if a person is not free to choose according to the dictates of his conscience. Our brethren from Arunachal are fearful. Up until now they had lived in peace, but now religious excuses have began to be used to destroy the love that they have for one another, just because some are Christians. But others are Hindus and still others are Muslims.
Some in our country call God Ishwar. Others call Him Allah. And others just call Him God. Every one of us has to recognize that He created us for greater things, such as to love and be loved. Who are we to keep our people from looking for God who has created them, who loves them, and to whom all must return one day?
Gandhi, the father of our country, said, “He who serves the poor serves God.” I spend hours and hours helping the poor, the dying, the unwanted, the despised, the lepers, and the insane. I do it because I love God. I know that whatever I do for my brothers it is as if I did it for Him. The only motive and joy in my life is to love Him and serve Him in the oppressed poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and the homeless. By working this way, I am proclaiming the love and compassion of God for each one of my brothers and sisters who suffers.
Mr. Desai and gentlemen of Parliament, in the name of God, do not destroy the freedom that our people have always had to love and serve God according to their consciences and their beliefs. Do not look down on the Hindu religion, saying that the poor Hindu people sell their religion for a plate of rice. I have a lot of experience, and I have never seen such a thing happen, even though we feed thousands of hungry from every religion and caste. Thousands of them have died in our arms.
I ask you, I beg you, to declare a day of prayer for the entire nation. We Catholics have asked all of our brothers and sisters to observe a day of fasting, prayer, and sacrifice to preserve peace and unity in our country, so that India may continue to enjoy its noble tradition of religious freedom.
I ask you to propose a similar day for all the religious communities in the nation, so that we may live in peace, unity, and love. May we all have hearts overflowing with love as a reflection of God’s love. God’s love is what can save our families, our country, and the entire world. (105-107)
The following passages are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book "The Joy in Loving," compiled by Jaya Chalika and Edward Le Joly.
1."I love all religions but I am in love with my own. If people become better Hindus, better Muslims, better Buddhists by our acts of love, then there is something else growing there. They come closer to God. When they come closer to God they have to choose." (24 July)
2."We have absolutely no difficulty regarding having to work in countries with many faiths. We treat all people as children of God. They are our brothers and sisters. We show great respect to them. Our work is to encourage these people, Christians as well as non-Christians, to do works of love. Every work of love done with a full heart brings people closer to God" (7 April)
3. "In Yemen, which is a Muslim country, I asked one of the rich people to build a Masjid there. People needed a place to pray, I said to him. They are all Muslim brothers and sisters. They need a place where they can meet God" (16 June)
4. Our purpose is to take God and His love to the poorest of the poor, irrespective of their ethnic origin or the faith they profess.
Our discernment of aid is not the belief but the necessity. In our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists or agnostics become for this reason better men---simply better---we will be satisfied. Growing up in God’s love they will be nearer to God and will find Him in His goodness. (11 November)
5. Whether one is Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian, how you live your life is proof that you are or not fully His.
We cannot condemn or judge or pass words that will hurt people. We don’t know in what way God is appearing to that soul and what God is drawing that soul to; therefore, who are we to condemn anybody? (25 November)
6. Religion is not something that you or I can touch. Religion is the worship of God---therefore a matter of conscience. I alone must decide for myself and you for yourself, what we choose. For me the religion I live and use to worship God is the Catholic religion. For me this is my very life, my joy and the greatest gift of God in His love for me. He could have given me no greater gift. (16 July)
7. I love my people very much, more than myself, and so naturally I wish to give them the joy of possessing the treasure that is my religion, but it is not mine to give, nor can I force it on anyone. So also no man, no law, no government has the right to prevent or force me, or anyone; if I choose to embrace the religion that gives me peace, joy and love. (17 July)
The passages below are quotations of Mother Teresa are from the book “In My Own Words,” compiled by Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado.
1. We all have the duty to serve God where we are called to do so. I feel called to serve individuals, to love each human being. My calling is not to judge the institutions. I am not qualified to condemn anyone. I never think in terms of a crowd, but of individual persons.
If I thought in terms of crowds, I would never begin my work.
I believe in the personal touch of one to one.
If others are convinced that God wants them to change social structures, that is a matter for them to take up with God. (99)
2. In order to be Christians, we should resemble Christ; of this I am firmly convinced.
Gandhi once said that if Christians lived according to their faith, there would be no more Hindu left in India.
People expect us to be consistent with our Christian life. (100)
3. Gandhi felt fascinated at knowing Christ. He met Christians, and felt let down. (98)
4. Often we Christians constitute the worst obstacle for those who try to become closer to Christ; we often preach a gospel we do not live. This is the principle reason why people of the world don’t believe.(100)
5. A man, a follower of the Hindu religion, came to our Home for the Dying in Kalighat at a time when I was busy curing the wounds of a sick person. He watched me for a while in silence. Then he said, “Since it gives you the strength to do what you do, I have no doubt that your religion has to be true.” (99)
6. If we truly understand the Eucharist; if we make the Eucharist the central focus of our lives; if we feed our lives with the Eucharist, we will not find it difficult to discover Christ, to love Him, and to serve Him in the poor. (97)
7. The Eucharist is something more than simply receiving Christ. It supposes that we satisfy His hunger.
Christ invites us, “Come to Me.”
Christ hungers for souls.
Nowhere in the gospel has Christ ever uttered an expression of rejection. Rather, we always find an invitation: “Come to Me.” (97)
8. God is a Father who forgives.
His mercy is greater than our sin.
He will forgive our sin---but let us try not to commit the sin again. (100)
9. The Church is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow.
The apostles, too, experienced fear and mistrust, depression and failures. In spite of all this, Christ did not rebuke them. He simply told them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38)
Jesus’ kind words are also appropriate for our fears today. (101)
10. “What is a Christian?” someone asked a Hindu man. He responded, “The Christian is someone who gives.” (17)
11. Let us not be satisfied just by giving money. Money is not everything. Money is something you can get.
The poor need the work of our hands, the love of our hearts.
Love, an abundant love, is the expression of our Christian religion. (80)
12. My secret is a very simple one: I pray. To pray to Christ is to love Him. (8)
13. I am asked what is one to do to be sure that one is following the way of salvation. I answer: “Love God. And, above all, pray.” (11)
The following passages are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book "Love: A Fruit always in Season" edited by Dorothy S. Hunt.
1.To convert is to bring to Christ (49)
To convert is to bring to God. To sanctify is to fill with God. To convert and sanctify is the work of God, but God has chosen in His great mercy the Missionaries of Charity to help Him in His own work. It is a special grace granted to the Missionaries of Charity with no merit on their part to carry the light of Christ into the dark holes and slums (The Love of Christ: Spiritual Counsels, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 99).
2. I hope to convert hearts (49)
Oh, I hope I am converting. I don’t mean what you think. I hope we are converting hearts. Not even Almighty God can convert a person unless that person wants it. What we are all trying to do by our work, by serving the people, is to come closer to God. If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives, then we are converting. We become a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a better Catholic, a better whatever we are, and then by being better we come closer and closer to Him. If we accept Him fully in our lives, then that is conversion. What approach would I use? For me, naturally, it would be a Catholic one, for you it may be Hindu, for someone else, Buddhist, according to one’s conscience. What God is in your mind you must accept. But I cannot prevent myself from trying to give you what I have (Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work, 136).
3. Conversion cannot be forced (50)
I am not afraid to say I am in love with Jesus because He is everything to me. But you may have a different picture in your life. And this is the way that conversion has to be understood—--people think that conversion is just changing overnight. It is not like that. Nobody, not even your father and mother, can make you do that. Not even Almighty God can force a person. Even Jesus, though He was God Himself, could not convert the hearts of the people unless they allowed Him to (Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work, 136—137).
4. Growing in Love (51)
Our purpose is to take God and His love to the poorest of the poor, irrespective of their ethnic origin or the faith that they profess. Our discernment of aid is not the belief but the necessity. We never try to convert those who receive to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists or agnostics become for this reason better men—--simply better—--we will be satisfied. Growing up in love they will be nearer to God and will find Him in His goodness (Life in the Spirit, 81).
5. No matter what religion, what matters is that we love (132)
Some call Him Ishwar, some call Him Allah, some simply God, but we all have to acknowledge that it is He who made us for greater things: to love and to be loved. What matters is that we love. We cannot love without prayer, and so whatever religion we are we must pray together. (Life in the Spirit, 82).
6. God works in His own ways (133)
Every human being comes from the hand of God and we all know what is the love of God for us. My religion is everything to me but for every individual, according to the grace God has given that soul.
God has His own ways and means to work in the hearts of men, and we do not know how close they are to Him, but by their actions we will always know whether they are at His disposal or not. . . . We must not condemn or judge or pass words that will hurt people. Maybe a person has never heard of Christianity. We do not know what way God is appearing to that soul and what way God is drawing that soul, and therefore, who are we to condemn anybody? (Life in the Spirit, 81—82).
7. We all work as one (135)
We have absolutely no difficulty regarding having to work in countries with many faiths, like India. We treat all people as children of God. They are our brothers and sisters. We show great respect to them.
Our work is to encourage these Christians and non-Christians to do works of love. And every work of love, done with a full heart, always brings people closer to God.
If they accept God in their lives, then they are a co-worker. If they don’t, it’s their answer (My Life for the Poor, 21).
The passages below are quotations of Mother Teresa from the book “Stories of mother Teresa,” edited by Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado
1. “If anyone thinks and believes that the way he or she is taking is the only way toward God, that is the way God will take. If one knows no other way, one has no doubts and does not feel the need to keep searching for another way, that is the way to salvation. That is the way God will take to reach that person.” (Stories of Mother Teresa, 17)
II. My History with God---by Henri Nouwen
In 1994, Henri Nouwen wrote a short unpublished synopsis of his life entitled “My History with God” for a class he was teaching in Toronto. A Jesuit priest, John Dear, editor of Henri Nouwen’s book “The Road to Peace,” quoted below some of the passages from the synopsis:
1.The Safe Home (1932-1957)
My first twenty-four years of life were basically years to prepare myself for the Catholic priesthood. I was born and raised in a Roman Catholic family, went to Roman Catholic schools, and lived a life in which I related exclusively to Roman Catholics. It was a time in which all the boundaries were very clear. I was a Roman Catholic and not a Protestant; I was a Christian and not a Moslem, Buddhist, or Hindu. I was a believer and not a pagan; I was Dutch and not German, French, or English; I was white and not black, etc. These very clear boundaries gave me a sense of being in the right place, being wholly protected, and being very safe. I never met anybody who was divorced, who had left the priesthood, or who was gay. It was very clear what I was going to do as a priest. I knew the right teaching and the right way to live the moral life. Six years in the seminary had given me very clear-cut guidelines and surrounded me with people who had received the same guidelines. Proclaiming the Gospel and administering the sacraments were challenging, but not complicated, and something I really felt called to do. I was a very happy person, felt very close to God, had a very disciplined prayer life and a very clear-cut vocation. I was ordained in July 1957. (p. viii)
2.Breaking down All Boundaries (1957-1986)
After my ordination I studied psychology at the University in Holland, visited the Vatican Council, worked as chaplain of the Holland/American line, and was trained as a reserve army chaplain. I then studied for a few years at the Menninger Clinic to explore the relationship between religion and psychiatry, taught for two years at Notre Dame, 10 years at Yale, and three years at Harvard, and made visits to Latin American. During all these years, I learned that Protestants belong as much to the church as Catholics, and that Hindus, Buddhists, and Moslems believe in God as much as Christians do; that pagans can love one another as much as believers can; that human psyche is multidimensional; that theology, psychology, and sociology are intersecting in many places; that women have a real call to ministry; that homosexual people have a unique vocation in the Christian community; that the poor belong to the heart of the church; and that the spirit of God blows where it wants. All of these discoveries gradually broke down many fences that had given me a safe garden and made me deeply aware that God’s covenant with God’s people includes everyone. For me personally, it was a time of searching, questioning, and agonising, a time that was extremely lonely and not without moments of great inner uncertainty and ambiguity. The Jesus that I had come to know in my youth had died. I was travelling in a downcast way to Emmaus, and started hearing the Voice of someone who had joined me on the journey.(p.xi)
3.A New Home (1986-1994)
When I joined the L’Arche Daybreak Community in Toronto, I was searching for a new home. I knew it could not be the old home that I had left, but I did not know what the new home would look like. During the last eight years living with people with mental handicaps and their assistants in a very close knit community consisting of people from many different religions, backgrounds, communities, and lifestyles, my heart started to burn, and I started to recognise the presence of Jesus in a radically new way. During this time I have experienced much loneliness, much confusion, and much insecurity, but I have experienced all of this sorrow living with poor people who in their simplicity and openness offer me a space that gradually could become a new home. Since living in community, my spiritual journey has been radically deepened, the full dimension of which I am not yet fully able to articulate. But I know that living with the people of my community is calling me to be a witness in a way that I never could have been before. (p. xiv)
Father Henri J M Nouwen, at the age of 63 years’ old and after 38 years of priesthood, wrote about salvation in his book “Sabbatical Journey---The Diary of his Final Year,” published in 1998 the following:
Friday, November 10 1995
As I started to write again today, I realised that The Gathering (an evangelical support network for philanthropists, who come together once a year to support and encourage one another in their philanthropic work and to discuss how to give in the spirit of the Gospel. In order to be “eligible” for The Gathering, each member must be a major donor to a charitable organisation) had raised new questions in my mind about mission, evangelisation, conversion, witness, and so on. Many of the people I met in Cancun believe that without an explicit personal profession of faith in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we cannot make it to heaven. They are convinced that God has called us to convert every human being to Jesus.
This vision inspires much generosity, commitment, and a great worldwide project. Not a few of the men and women we met had travelled for and wide, put their lives and health in danger, given large parts of their personal income, and taken many financial risks. Their love for Jesus is deep, intense, and radical. They spoke about Jesus fearlessly and were prepared for rejection and ridicule. They are very committed disciples, not hesitant to pay the cost of their discipleship.
Still . . .I felt somewhat uncomfortable, even though this belief was present in my own upbringing. My conviction as a young man was that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church and that it was my task to bring all “non-believers” into the one true Church.
But much has happened to me over the years. My own psychological training, my exposure to people from the most different religious background, the Second Vatican Council, the new theology of mission, and my life in L’Arche have all deepened and broadened my views on Jesus’ saving work. Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through the door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God. I feel deeply called to witness for Jesus as the One who is the source of my own spiritual journey and thus create the possibility for other people to know Jesus and commit themselves to Him. I am so truly convinced that the Spirit of God is present in our midst and that each person can be touched by God’s Spirit in ways for beyond my own comprehension and intention.
I am very grateful for my time at The Gathering. It forces me to think through my own religious convictions. (p.53)
Henri Nouwen’s passed away on 15/9/1996, at the age of 64 years old. It was a devastating loss to his many friends, to L’Arche, to the church, and to the world. Henri Nouwen was one of the most popular and influential spiritual writers of his time. Only Thomas Merton or C.S. Lewis has had a comparable impact on Christian spirituality.
The passages below on Salvation are taken from Father Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book “Bread for the Journey,” published in 1997.
1.The Door Open to Anyone
Jesus is the door to a life in and with God. “I am the gate,” He says. (John 10:9). “I am the Way, I am Truth and Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Still, many people never have heard or will hear of Jesus. They are born, live their lives, and die without having been exposed to Jesus and His Words. Are they lost? Is there no place in the Father’s house for them?
Jesus opened the door to God’s house for all people, also for those who never knew or will know that it was Jesus who opened it. The Spirit that Jesus sent “blows where it pleases” (John 3:8), and it can lead anyone through the door to God’s house. (Aug 3)
2.Sharing the Abundant Love
Why must we go out to the far ends of the world to preach the Gospel of Jesus when people do not have to know Jesus in order to enter the house of God? We must go out because we want to share with people the abundant love and hope, joy and peace that Jesus brought to us. We want to “proclaim the unfathomable treasure of Christ” and “throw light on the inner workings of the mystery kept hidden through all ages in God, the creator of everything” (Ephesians 3:8-9)
What we have received is so beautiful and so rich that we cannot hold it for ourselves but feel compelled to bring it to every human being we meet. (Aug 3)
3.Jesus comes to us in the Poor
What finally counts is not whether we know Jesus and His Words but whether we live our lives in the Spirit of Jesus. The Spirit of Jesus is the Spirit of Love. Jesus Himself makes this clear when He speaks about the last judgement. There people will ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?” and Jesus will answer, “In so far as you did this to one of the least. . . of Mine, you did it to Me”(Matthew 25:37,40).
This is our great challenge and consolation. Jesus comes to us in the poor, the sick, the dying, the prisoners, the lonely, the disabled, the rejected. There we meet Him and there the door to God’s house is opened for us. (Aug 4)
4.Who are the Poor
The poor are the center of the Church. But who are the poor? At first we might think of people who are not like us, people who live in slums, people who go to soup kitchens, people who sleep on the streets, people in prisons, mental hospitals, and nursing homes. But the poor can be very close. They can be in our families, churches, or workplaces. Even closer, the poor can be ourselves, who feel unloved, rejected, ignored or abused.
It is precisely when we see and experience poverty---whether far away, close by, or in our hearts---that we need to become the Church; that is, hold hands as brothers and sisters, confess our own brokenness and need, forgive one another, heal one another’s wounds, and gather around the table of Jesus for the breaking of the bread. Thus, as the poor we recognise Jesus, who became poor for us. (Nov 2)
5.All People Lifted Up with Jesus
The death and resurrection of Jesus are God’s way to open for all people the door to eternal life. Jesus said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to Myself” (John 12:32). Indeed, all people, from all times and places, are lifted up with Jesus on the cross and into the new life of the resurrection. Thus Jesus’ death is a death for all humanity, and Jesus’ resurrection is a resurrection for all humanity.
Not one person from the past, present, or future is excluded from the great passage of Jesus from slavery to freedom, from the land of captivity to the promised land, from death to eternal life. (Aug 1)
6.Jesus takes away Fatality
The great mystery of the incarnation is that God became human in Jesus so that all human flesh could be clothed with divine life. Our lives are fragile and destined to death. But since God, through Jesus, shared in our fragile and mortal lives, death no longer has the final word. Life has become victorious. Paul writes, “And after this perishable nature has put on imperishability and this mortal nature has put on immortality, then will the Words of scripture come true: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?’”(1 Corinthians 15:54). Jesus has taken away the fatality of our existence and given our lives eternal value. (Aug 2)
7.Heaven and Hell
Is everybody finally going to be all right? Are all people ultimately going to be free from misery and all their needs fulfilled? Yes and no! Yes, because God wants to bring us home into God’s Kingdom. No, because nothing happens without our choosing it. The realization of the Kingdom of God is God’s work, but for God to make God’s love fully visible in us, we must respond to God’s love with our own love.
There are two kinds of death: a death leading us into God’s Kingdom, and a death leading us into hell. John in his vision saw not only heaven but also hell. He says, “The legacy for cowards, for murderers and the sexually immoral, and for sorcerers, worshippers of false gods or any other sort of liars, is the second death in the burning lake of sulphur”(Revelation 21:8). We must choose for God if we want to be with God. (Dec 14)
8.A Second Death
Hell is a second death. This is what the Book of Revelation says (see Revelation 21:8). Just as there is an eternal life, there is an eternal death. Eternal life is a second life; eternal death is a second death. Our first death can be a passage not only to eternal life but also to eternal death.
Looking at hell as a second death takes away the images of eternal suffering and torture that are so prevalent in medieval art and literature. It defines hell more as the refusal to choose life than as a punishment for wrongdoing. In fact, the sins that the Book of Revelation mentions as leading to eternal death are choices for death: murdering, worshipping obscenities, sexual immorality, lying, and so on (see Revelation 21:8). When we sow death we will reap death. But when we sow life we will reap life. It is we who do the sowing! (Dec 17)
God says, “I am offering you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:10).
“Choose life.” That’s God’s call for us, and there is not a moment in which we do not have to make that choice. Life and death are always before us. In our imaginations, our thoughts, our words, our gestures, our actions. . . even in our non actions. This choice for life starts in a deep interior place. Underneath very life-affirming behaviour I can still harbour death-thoughts and death-feelings. The most important question is not “Do I kill?” but “Do I carry a blessing in my heart or a curse?” The bullet that kills is only the final instrument of the hatred that began in the heart long before the gun was picked up. (Aug 30)
10. A Choice Calling for Discipline
When we look critically at the many thoughts and feelings that fill our minds and hearts, we may come to the horrifying discovery that we often choose death instead of life, curse instead of blessing. Jealousy, envy, anger, resentment, greed, lust, vindictiveness, revenge, hatred---they all float in that large reservoir of our inner life. Often we take them for granted and allow them to be there and do their destructive work.
But God asks us to choose life and to choose blessing. This choice requires an immense inner discipline. It requires a great attentiveness to the death-forces within us and a great commitment to let the forces of life come to dominate our thoughts and feelings. We cannot always do this alone; often we need a caring guide or a loving community to support us. But it is important that we both make the inner effort and seek the support we need from others to help us choose life. (Aug 31)
11.Being Joyful Witnesses
To speak about Jesus and His divine work of salvation shouldn’t be a burden or a heavy obligation. When we go to people feeling that unless they accept our way of knowing Jesus, they are lost and we are failure, it is hardly possible to be true witnesses.
It is a great joy when people recognise through our witness that Jesus is the divine Redeemer who opened for them the way to God. It is true cause for gratitude and celebration. But we should also be able to live joyful and grateful lives when our witness with deeds and words does not lead people to accept Jesus in the way we do. (Aug 6)
12.Being Unconditional Witnesses
Good news becomes bad news when it is announced without peace and joy. Anyone who proclaims the forgiving and healing love of Jesus with a bitter heart is a false witness. Jesus is the Saviour of the world. We are not. We are called to witness, always with our lives and sometimes with our words, to the great things God has done for us. But this witness must come from a heart that is willing to give without getting anything in return.
The more we trust in God’s unconditional love for us, the more able we will be able to proclaim the love of Jesus without any inner or outer conditions. (Aug 8)
13.Being Living Signs of Love
Jesus’ whole life was a witness to His Father’s love and Jesus calls His followers to carry on that witness in His Name. We, as followers of Jesus, are sent into this world to be visible signs of God’s unconditional love. Thus, we are judged not first of all by what we say but by what we live. When people say of us, “See how they love one another,” they catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God that Jesus announced and are drawn to it as by a magnet.
In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds. (Aug 9)
14.Burning with Love
Often we are preoccupied with the question “How can we be witnesses in the Name of Jesus? What are we supposed to say or do to make people accept the love that God offers them?” These questions are expressions more of our fear than of our love, Jesus shows us the way of being witnesses. He was so full of God’s love, so connected with God’s will, so burning with zeal for God’s Kingdom, that He couldn’t do other than witness. Wherever He went and whoever He met, a power went out from Him that healed everyone who touched Him (see Luke 6:19)
If we want to be witnesses like Jesus, our only concern should be to be as alive with the love of God as Jesus was. (Aug 10)
15.Trusting in the Fruits
We belong to a generation that wants to see the results of our work. We want to be productive and see with our own eyes what we have made. But that is not the way of God’s Kingdom. Often our witness for God does not lead to tangible results. Jesus Himself died as a failure on a cross. There was no success there to be proud of. Still, the fruitfulness of Jesus’ life is beyond any human measure. As faithful witnesses of Jesus we have to trust that our lives too will be fruitful, even though we cannot see their fruit. The fruit of our lives may be visible only to those who live after us.
What is important is how well we love. God will make our love fruitful, whether we see that fruitfulness or not. (Aug 11)
III. The Holy Spirit is working everywhere--by Jean Vanier
The following quotations are from Jean Vanier’s (the founder of L’Arche, a world wide community that looks after the mentally handicapped) in his book “Community and Growth,” revised edition, published in 1991. When he wrote the book, he has already lived day by day for 28 years with people who have mental handicap. He still lives with them today.
1.A shepherd who yearns for Unity (p.151-152)
As I think of all the communities throughout the world, struggling for growth, yearning to answer the call of Jesus and of the poor, I realise the need for a universal shepherd---a shepherd who yearns for Unity, who has clarity of vision, who calls forth communities and who holds all people in prayer and in love, who is a guardian of unity and a servant of communion.
How long will it take before people realise this deep need for a universal shepherd? How long will it take for Roman Catholics to understand the depths of their gift and be confounded in humility, and to open themselves up to others in understanding and love? How long will it take them to recognise the beauty of the Orthodox Church with its sense of the sacred; and the beauty of and gift of the Church of South India and of Protestant Churches, especially with their love of Scripture, of announcing the Word, and their desire to live in the Holy Spirit? How long will it take them to see the light of truth and the presence of God in so many men and women of other religions?
Yes. I yearn for this day of unity.
Roger Schutz, founder of Taize, has a prophetic passion for unity and I would wish to have the same passion. In the Acts of the Council of Youth 1979 it is Written:
A way exists to put an end to the scandal of the divisions among Christians and to allow the Churches to join in a common creation: that every local community refer to a ministry of reconciliation at the heart of the People of God. These past few months, the eyes of many men and women have been opened more than ever before to the ministry of a universal pastor: ‘attentive to serve humanity as such and not only Catholics, to defend above all and in all places rights of the human person and not only those of the Church’. (John XXIII).
2.Vatican II (p.172-173)
It is good that different types of Christian community meet to share their hope and their vision. It is good too that Christians meet to see how the Spirit is acting among them. It is encouraging and strengthening to discover the network of the Holy Spirit and the marvels of God across the world. We realise then that we are not alone with our problems and that there is a universal hope.
It is important to know what the Spirit is doing in the Church, be cause he is always raising up, providentially men and women to show us new ways. The most prophetic are sometimes the most hidden during their lifetime. Few people knew Therese of Lisieux or Charles de Foucauld before their deaths.
Today Roger Shutz and his brothers in Taize are truly prophetic. Their community is bringing forth much fruit. Truly the Taize community, and Brother Roger’s words and gestures, are a sign of God in our broken world. Their yearning for unity amongst Christian churches is a sign of the yearning of God. It is important to listen to such signs and to integrate them into the vision of our own community. The same is true of the vision of Mother Teresa; she also is a sign of the presence of God in our world. She is reminding all our communities that we must be open to the poorest and the weakest of our world, for they are a presence of Christ. Such prophets are showing us a way.
Vatican Il announced so clearly that the Holy Spirit is working in all the Churches, not just in the Roman Catholic Church. It seems to me that this teaching is not always put into practice. It remains a theory, a doctrine, a vision. Shouldn’t we all look at the consequences of it? Roman Catholics are often enclosed within their own groups, their own club, their own community. They are not sufficiently alert to see the signs of the Spirit present in other Churches, other communities, or in people of other religions. Yet the Spirit of God is at work there. God is speaking to them; he is revealing himself there. We must be attentive to others, to notice in them the presence of the Holy Spirit. If we confine ourselves only to the workings of the Spirit in ‘our’ group or in ‘our’ Church, we will miss something; we will be lacking in a gift of the Spirit. Communities have so much to offer to each other. They can offer each other their food, their nourishment.
But of course, in order to really appreciate the Spirit working in the hearts of other communities and Churches, we have to be well rooted in our own; we have to belong. Otherwise we risk living in
some confusion, without roots.
3.Help each person to deepen in his own faith (198-200)
In those communities of l’Arche which are interdenominational, I would like to see the words, ‘I thirst for unity’. Jesus is saying to each one of the members: ‘Are you prepared to suffer for unity? Will you follow me along the road and carry the cross of this pain?’
With all the suffering of a divided Eucharist and of divided churches, we can be nourished by this bread of pain. We know the road is uncharted and painful, but we are walking with Jesus; we are walking towards unity.
However, all of us hate pain. We try to flee from it; we do every thing to avoid it. So, time and time again in our communities, the question of intercommunion comes up, sometimes in quite an aggressive way, especially as new assistants arrive. It is not easy to keep walking on the right path, particularly as we do not always receive the necessary encouragement from the clergy in the different Churches. Each priest or minister belongs to a particular church, where they have their own problems; they are not always concerned about an interdenominational community. To whom does such a community belong? Perhaps to all the Churches involved, but only as long as they are yearning for unity as Christ does.
The danger for interdenominational communities is that the people in them begin to see religion and the Churches as a source of division. It is so easy to slip away then from all spiritual values and religious activities, and to put all our energy into leisure activities and community celebrations where we can be united. But such activities are not sufficient for building and sustaining community. L’Arche communities could easily become good group homes and forget they are communities, with all that that implies.
To live ecumenism, each person is called to live and deepen what is essential to their faith in Jesus: to be in communion with the Father and to grow in love for others. But they must live and deepen what is specific to their own Church too. True ecumenism is not the suppression of difference; on the contrary, it is learning to respect and love what is different. The members of the community must then be grounded in their own tradition and love it. It means also that they feel truly called by Jesus to eat the bread of pain in order to further that unity. In such communities each person must be truly nourished spiritually, in order to grow in wholeness and in holiness.
If interdenominational communities cannot be nourished by the Eucharist, there must be other moments when the presence of Jesus is signified to bring about communion. Communities, as I have said, are places of communion before being places of cooperation. This communion must be nourished. Members of interdenominational communities are called to deepen their prayer life together. They are called to celebrate all that unites Christians of different traditions: in particular baptism; the Word of God; the cross of Jesus and carrying our cross; living in the Holy Spirit, prayer and the presence of Jesus. Together, all the members are called to holiness and love. If they cannot celebrate the Eucharist together, they can celebrate the washing of each other’s feet; living it as a sacrament.
In l’Arche, if we cannot eat at the same Eucharistic table, we can all eat together at the table of the poor. ‘When you give a banquet,’ says Jesus, ‘invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, not your friends or relations or rich neighbours’ (Luke 14:13-15). If we cannot drink together from the same Eucharistic chalice, we can all drink together from the chalice of suffering (cf. Matt. 20) caused by division amongst Christians and by the rejection of the poor and the weak. These are the specific gifts of l’Arche.
We can discover also the intimate link between the broken body of Christ in the Eucharist and the broken and suffering bodies of our people. We can discover that the poor are a path to unity. As we are called to love them, and to be loved by them, we are in some mysterious way brought together in the heart of Christ.
What I have said of interdenominational communities can also be said, but in a different way, about inter-religious communities. Here the bread of pain is perhaps even greater. We have to discover how to celebrate our common humanity. We must discover the cycles of nature and the presence of God in all the beauty of our universe. We must learn how to celebrate a common prayer to God, the Father of us all.
In our communities of Asha Niketan in India where we live, Hindus, Muslims and Christians together we are struggling to live this Unity and diversity. We want to help each person to deepen in their own faith and find the essence of love at the heart of their faith; and at the same time we seek to celebrate our common humanity, our love for God and for each other.
In all this, we must discover that l’Arche is called to be a prophetic place of peace and reconciliation. That is our call and our gift. And our beloved God will give us the nourishment we need as he gave it to his people in the desert with the manna and the waters springing from the rock. If we cry out in our pain he will feed us.
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The above extracts are from three renowned Roman Catholics and their modern views on Christianity and other religions and on salvation are of profound importance and worth reflecting on. They challenge the traditional and conventional views. All of them emphasize love and that an abundant love is the expression of our Christian religion. It is vitally important that we “do not restrain the Holy Spirit (and) do not despise inspired messages” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 TEV).
IV. St Paul Yearned for Christian Unity
When a Christian discusses with another Christian, should he cause further division amongst themselves by his unthinking remarks? Even in St Paul’s time, there were divisions in the Christian communities. Today it is still the same. Isn’t this scandalous? Isn’t this absurd? Is Christ divided? St Paul says, “Let me put it this way; each one of you says something different. One says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Peter’; and another, ‘I follow Christ.’ Christ has been divided into groups! Was it Paul who died on the cross for you? Were you baptized as Paul’s disciples?” (1 Corinthians 1:12-13 TEV) Aren’t we saying the same thing nowadays? I am baptized as a Roman Catholic. I am baptized as an Anglican. I am baptized as a Methodist. Was it the Pope or Martin Luther who died on the cross for us? When Christians quarrel and run down each other, aren’t they doing the same as the Corinthians? As St Paul says “When there is jealousy among you and you quarrel with one another, doesn’t this prove that you belong to this world, living by its standards? When one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ’I follow Apollos’--aren’t you acting like worldly people? After all, who is Apollos? And who is Paul? We are simply God’s servants by whom you were led to believe. Each one of us does the work which the Lord gave him to do.” (1 Corinthians 3:3-5 TEV) Today we need to ask the same questions again. Who is the Pope? Who is Martin Luther? Are they not the ones who lead us to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Sometimes Christian groups boast about how right and true their Churches are. Isn’t this the same thing that St Paul says? “For what the world considers to be wisdom is nonsense in God’s sight. As the Scripture says, ’God traps the wise in their cleverness’ and another Scripture says, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise is worthless.’ No one, then, should boast about what human beings can do. Actually everything belongs to you. Paul, Apollos, and Peter; this world, life and death, the present and the future---all these are yours and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.” (1 Corinthians 3:19-23 TEV)
Upon reflection on these
passages in the Bible, don’t all baptized Christians belong to Jesus Christ and
not to the Pope or Martin Luther? Therefore Christians should concentrate on
their own relationship with Jesus Christ instead of boasting about the rightness
of their own Churches. By all means be rooted in the tradition he is brought up
on but his focus must always be on Christ’s commandment of loving one another
just like Jesus loves him.
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