If God tells me, “I don’t know where you are from.” I hope that if I say, “I’m from Falfurrias”—it will ring a bell. Having a home town, being from somewhere—being part of a group gives us the sense of belonging.
That’s what the Jews had come to take for granted. The felt that just because they were born into the Chosen People, then they had it made—salvation was guaranteed. Jesus shocked everyone when He said, “Your Religion does not guarantee your salvation.” Fact is that Jesus never told anyone “Your Religion has saved you.” The Lord told several people, “Your Faith has saved you.” Two very different realities. There are some theologians who know all about Religion, but have no faith—the devil is one of them—he knows the Bible backwards and forwards—he quoted the Bible to Jesus on several occasions. But the devil has no faith. Therefore knowing is not the same as believing. For many religion has become a social affair—something nice—a pious habit to do on the weekend—after all, what will the neighbors say? What will people think if we don’t go to church? Routine gets old. Little wonder why some children do not want to follow the example of their parents—because they just see routine—no fire—no personal relationship with Jesus Christ—no witnessing. Got to avoid the “Country Club” mentality for our church. Got to avoid the trap, which had caught the Jews. We can never consider ourselves “in” at the expense of others being “out”. “Catholic” means “here comes everybody”. All the misfits, the rejects, the ones no one else likes—we like them—we want them. Before Vatican II religion was more of a weapon by which we dammed to hell all those who weren’t like us. We stepped back and took a good look at humanity and saw how wrong we were.
Things have changed for the better. Religion should never be used as a weapon for condemnation but for freedom. True Religion liberates—brings people closer to God—closer to acceptance of the beauty that is already in each person. So any time we hear someone say, “Only those who believe the way that I do will go to heaven.”—something is wrong. How boring the world would be if we were all the same. God loves variety. God is just as present to the Buddhist, the Muslims, the Hindus as He is to us.
We believe that we have the fullness of truth—which puts a tremendous responsibility on our shoulders. Not that we go around pushing everybody’s nose into the Roman Catholic tradition, but that we allow them to see how much in love we are with our Faith. No one is attracted to a long list of rules; but they are attracted to folks who show the Lord in their actions. “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” The bottom line is always how we treat one another—that gives the most powerful testimony. Testimony begins in our homes. We are as strong as our weakest family. The way that Fathers lead or shy away from prayer. Mothers who take time to teach their children gentle ways of patience with their brothers and sisters. When challenged with the distractions of the media, the Catholic family makes time to just sit and talk to one another. The demonstrations of love do not have to be dramatic—but authentic.
Our Religion should not serve to make us different, but inclusive. Because the hospitality that we show to someone, perhaps the least likely person, might be the person who will open the way to eternity. For behold, the table in the kingdom of God will be full of those who we thought would be last. God is the God of surprises.