No.25 Which Religion?
“We bless you, Father, Lord of Life, to whom all living beings tend, the source of holiness and grace, our first beginning and our end” (Divine Office: Hymn: Friday Morning Prayer Week 3).
Deep in the spirit of every person throbs the silent call of God who created us, loves us, blesses us, and wants us to know Him, to listen to His voice, to seek goodness and to live in peace in His presence. The conscious human response to this divine call is both personal, and collective. And, religion is the prism through which people seek and look to their Maker and where their Maker reveals Himself and His will and purpose for people, through prophets and teachers, orally and duly by means of the written word. However, all too often we are hard of hearing, suffer from distractions which stem from our own egos and from the demands, promise and pressures of life. As a result of such static, the voice of the Lord God tends to be heard but faintly, or incompletely, or is misunderstood, misrepresented or doubted, or replaced by the voice of man. Many abandon or compromise the search, opting for what they consider congenial or expedient. Religions themselves and even those who claim to be God’s mouthpiece may be infected with viruses of the human heart to the detriment of truth and our understanding of God. The challenge to people, and to whatever religion claims to speak in God’s name, is to discover, to be true to and to grow ever closer to the heart of God; to give the Divine will priority over all else, including the will of man, and the well-being and earthly popularity, prosperity and security of the religion itself. For this priceless grace we need to pray; and to beg for the honesty and humility to make our daily ‘mea culpas’, and to endeavour to grow in trust and fidelity in the Lord. All of us are on this journey, including the religion which we say we adhere to. We are indeed a pilgrim people. Can we distinguish between religion that is authentic, and those that are less true?
It would be well to ask about each religion:
What are its roots and antecedents?
On whom or on what is it founded? On the insights of man or the revelation of God or a mix of both?
Is its purpose to further the interests and needs of a particular ethnic group, culture, class or caste?
Or sponsored by a governing group or ruler for keeping people under control or onside?
Did the founder act and speak with God-given authority?
As no one else ever did before?
Does the religion have scriptures that have been reliably revealed or have they been re-edited to suit a particular viewpoint or policy?
Is the primary spokesperson of the religion consistent in his teachings and messages?
Are the latter self-contradictory and without reliable authoritative means of dealing with them?
Is the religion a fuller revelation of the divine message or is it recessive, theologically and pastorally? Did the founder/spokesperson practice what he preached?
Did he seek special privileges and benefits for himself or his favourites, not available to others, attributing this to divine permission?
Is there someone or a mechanism with authority to clarify their meaning through time?
Or is the unfolding of the word of God left to the discretion of individuals?
If so, what are their credentials?
Are the fundamental propositions and principles of the religion applicable from generation to generation, or not?
Does the religion espouse and prescribe this-worldly blueprints and methods for producing and managing a successful or a ‘peaceful’ society?
Does it lend itself to a flexi-morality and a willingness to compromise or debase moral standards to satisfy popular demand?
[Try applying these questions to pre-Christian religions; those that originated after Christ; to other Christian denominations. (You have some homework ahead).
The Catholic Religion
*Founded by Jesus the Christ, the Living Word of God become man; long foretold by the Old Testament prophets.
*Christ, the promised and anointed one of God, who would revolutionise worldly constructions of the will of God and of serving the Almighty.
*His would be a kingdom based on the principles of truth, love, justice, hope, trust, forgiveness, mercy, peace, service, non-violence and non-retaliation, the endurance and sublimation of suffering, self-denial and self-control, and oneness with the will of God, the way of the cross.
*A kingdom that is coming; a work in progress, but delayed and sometimes frustrated by the sins of men. Nonetheless, a Church for saints and sinners.
*Commissioned by Christ by means of the apostles and the apostolic succession to teach and nourish all people until the end of human occupancy of the planet earth.
*A Church consistent with science and reason but with truth that transcends both.
*Safeguarded by the guarantee and promise of Christ.
*Vested with Christ-given authority to teach without error, as one, in matters of faith and doctrine, to clarify and to grow under the care of divine providence, and the ongoing guidance of the Pope and Church’s Magisterium.
*A Church that reveals the inner nature of the Godhead as Unity in Trinity.
*A Church that makes available the means for restoration and holiness, through the sacrifice of the Mass and the sacraments.
*A Church that exhibits continuity of growth and development from the Abrahamic, through the Jewish to the Christian faith, yet open to change and conversion in response to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
*A Church Catholic, and for all.
Lord, may there be but one flock, and one shepherd: Christ Jesus.