Warning: If you are offended by challenges or questions aimed at religious authority, you might want to skip today’s blog. Also, if you are attached to living your Catholicism to the letter of the law and consider questioning that law to be heresy, again, you might want to skip today’s blog. Remember- I love my Catholic faith and it makes me sad when the Church does things that seem non-loving to me.
Shhhhhh….they think they are the only ones here.
There’s a really funny and potentially blasphemous story about a man who dies and is met at the gates of heaven by St. Peter. St. Peter gives the man a tour of heaven so that he can decide where he wants to live out eternity. The man, having never been brought up with any specific religious affiliation is amazed and intrigued by what he sees….individual rooms of people of differing beliefs, all living out their practices and beliefs. In each room, the man finds something that appeals to him….meditation in the Buddhist room, rituals in the Hindu room, conversations in the Quaker room, prayer in the Muslim room, etc. Then they come to the Catholic room and in the Catholic room are all the Catholics participating in the mass and saying the rosary. The man inquires of St. Peter, “This room looks like it would be fun. Who are these folks?” Peter responds, “Shhhhhh…..these are the Catholics, they think they are the only ones here.”
Now, I know I’m picking on the Catholic church in the telling of this story, because in truth, this story could be told with any specific religion as the punchline. Religion, by its very nature tends to be about separation, pride, arrogance. Just about every religious denomination can be accused of creating God in their own image and painting themselves into a corner of “We are better than you because…..” (and just for the record…..I know that in even writing this blog today, I too could be accused of said arrogance. I’m just owning that right now!) And you know what, at the end of the day, I’m not sure if it really matters except when we use our religious arrogance to judge, condemn, harm or wage war against another in the so-called “name of our God.” If we want to embrace differing beliefs, images, perceptions of the Divine based on our cultural and tribal customs….then so be it. It is only when we choose to bludgeon another or make another less than ourselves that these chosen differences become problematic.
Allowing God to reveal God’s Self
One of the ways around the temptation to religious arrogance, is to allow God to reveal God’s self to us, instead of having God imposed upon us by an outside authority….or at the very least, to allow God to reveal God’s self to us and to weigh that against what might come to us through our religious affiliations and beliefs. This is what Jesus learned and experienced in his own journey. Jesus was raised and lived his life within the institution of Judaism. God was defined and systemized by the religious authorities of the day, law was dictated and practices mandatory. The God that was known was the God of Israel, the God of the chosen people. Their God was the only God, the only right God and no one else found favor with God. Jesus learned otherwise. Through his prayer and his life experiences, Jesus discovered a God of compassion and a God that existed for the sake of the all. In tomorrow’s gospel (Matthew 8: 5-11) we see Jesus live this out in his healing of the centurian’s servant. The centurian, a Roman and an “enemy” of the Hebrew people comes to Jesus and asks Jesus to heal his slave. Jesus is happy to oblige and offers to come to the Roman’s house to facilitate the healing. The centurian responds, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and my servant shall be healed.” And it is done. Jesus is astounded by the centurian’s faith and reminds us that, “many will come from the east and the west and will recline with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven.” In other words, “We aren’t the only ones there!”
The New Roman Missal and Lauri getting in trouble
Now, here’s where I’m going to get in trouble. I find it ironic that this reading is featured during the very week that the Roman Church rolls out the new mass – a mass featuring the newly translated Roman Missal. And, here I promise to keep my pontificating brief. I have one primary issue with the new translation – The Roman Curia drawing the line in the sand and making it pretty clear through their words that they think they are the only ones in heaven. Places where it used to say Jesus came for “all” have been changed to “many.” Or in the Gloria where peace is only prayed for “people of good will.” What about the rest of humanity? I am tempted to shake my finger in self-righteousness over these potentially hurtful words….but instead I just want to cry. The Vatican II Council tried to undo 1900 years of religious arrogance and profound abuse at the hands of the Roman Church by including all of humanity in the plan of God’s salvation and communicating that through the mass. But even beyond what the Catholic Church may or may not do toward embracing unity, I am saddened by anything that images God as non-loving. And perhaps this is me making God in my own image – a God that is all-loving, all-compassionate, all-embracing of all people of all beliefs and practices. I believe in ONE GOD…..by whatever name we call it, and that God is LOVE….period. And if I’m being arrogant in wanting to believe in a God that is love, then I guess, so be it. Anything else would just make me sad and would be inauthentic to the God that has revealed itself in my heart. So when I go to mass, I will hear the words of the new missal and cringe a little, while praying that the Institution of the Church will one day come to know the fullness of God’s infinite, unconditional, unifying love and that they will see that they are not the only ones there.
Where have you witnessed religious arrogance?
How has God revealed God’s self in your own heart and how does that differ from what your religion may have told you?
How can you be open to God revealing the fullness of Divine love to you?
Authentic Freedom Ministries