Saturday, September 17, 2016

God, in Jesus Christ, can express his plan in different ways

1.       The Vatican II council was a big step in having a positive view of other religions. Let us look at this example.

“The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men”. (Nostra Aetate #2). Notice that the document states that there is “a ray of Truth” in the other religions.

2.       Pope John Paul II himself, in his Redemptoris mission, als wrote of “seeds” and “rays” present in other religions. We read, “Through dialogue, the Church seeks to uncover the "seeds of the Word," a "ray of that truth which enlightens all men''; these are found in individuals and in the religious traditions of mankind” (#56).
3.       Human life is really marked by the interactions with the complex social life. There are institutions, structures and systems in which each person is situated. The same holds for persons in religions. A member of a religious tradition is inside a whole complexity of texts, symbols, rituals, moral codes, etc. When people search for the mystery of salvation, they cannot avoid moving within the systems and institutions of their religions. Each religion then can offer to its members the opening up to the mystery of salvation. We can say that religions are ways of expressing God’s will to save.
4.       The Church Fathers in the early history of the Church wrote of the universal presence of God in all humanity. Of course this means including Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
5.       We must insist that Jesus is Saviour of all. This is how God revealed. Christology is normative—it is “norm”. We cannot give up Christ’s unique mediation. We believe that other religions are paths of salvation because they carry in them the presence of Christ. But if people are saved by Christ it is not in spite of their religions but because of their religions.
6.       Other religious traditions can manifest Jesus Christ. The Church is not the only place where salvation can happen. Remember that the Church is in the service of the kingdom. The Kingdom is bigger and wider than the Church; the Church does not have a monopoly of the Kingdom. The Holy Spirit then can work where he wants and the Church is to respect and discern that. 

     “the universal activity of the Spirit is not to be separated from his particular activity within the body of Christ, which is the Church. Indeed, it is always the Spirit who is at work, both when he gives life to the Church and impels her to proclaim Christ, and when he implants and develops his gifts in all individuals and peoples, guiding the Church to discover these gifts, to foster them and to receive them through dialogue. Every form of the Spirit's presence is to be welcomed with respect and gratitude, but the discernment of this presence is the responsibility of the Church, to which Christ gave his Spirit in order to guide her into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13)” (Redemptoris missio #29).

7.       If we look at other religions where can we see the deep values of Christ? We can look into the written scriptures of other religions. We can look into their liturgies, cults and other related practices. We can look into their moral codes, their works of justice, hospitality and peace.
8.       We see in all the religions the beauty of striving to go out of being “too full of oneself” and opening up to others and to something greater.
9.       If we engage in dialogue with other religions, we do it as Christians. We are responsible for being ourselves. We enter into dialogue by being true to ourselves too: we are Christians. We have our faith. This is not necessarily an obstacle to dialogue.
10.   Let us look at our Jewish brothers and sisters for a moment. We still believe that they are elected by God. They stay as they are and we do not substitute for them. Christianity is not a substitute for Judaism. Judaism stand on its own; the Jews are who they are. Jesus himself did not think of substituting a new religion to replace Judaism. Jesus expanded horizons and he extended to all nations the election of the people of Israel.
11.   If this is how we relate with Judaism, can we not do the same with other religious traditions? If we respect the autonomy of the Jews, can we not also respect the autonomy of other religious traditions? There are many religions, it is a fact. We can hold as principle that other religions stay valid as they are.

12.   God revealed to us in history through Christ. God can also reveal in other ways. Judaism was a preparation for the coming of Christ; we can say the same for other religions: they are preparations for the full manifestation of Christ. Other religions also belong to the plan of God. There is no need to deny their status. God works in them and prepares them in God’s own ways. God’s salvation in Christ can have different expressions; other religious traditions may be, precisely, expressions too.     

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