Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Homily for Holy Spirit Catholic Community on 19th Ordinary Time, Aug. 9, 2015 by Beverly Bingle, RCWP

We started reading this long “bread of life” discourse
in Chapter 6 of John's Gospel the last week of July,
and we'll continue reading from it through the end of August.
Each piece of it is full of theology and spirituality for us to consider.
This week John puts words in Jesus' mouth to tell us
that we have to go through Jesus to get to God.
We can't get to God any other way.
Later, in Chapter 14, verse 6, John has Jesus saying it straight out,
“No one comes to the Father except through me.”
But we all know people who are not Christians
who are good people, following their conscience,
some of them followers of religions like Islam or Hinduism,
some of them following no religion at all.
If we believe the Gospel of John, they cannot get to God.
The German theologian Karl Rahner tried to solve the problem
with the notion of “anonymous Christianity.”
Here's how he put it:
"Anonymous Christianity means that a person
lives in the grace of God and attains salvation
outside of explicitly constituted Christianity…
Let us say, a Buddhist monk…
who, because he follows his conscience,
attains salvation and lives in the grace of God;
of him I must say that he is an anonymous Christian.”
The way Rahner sees it is that,
if he did not call this good Buddhist an “anonymous Christian,
he would have to say that there is a path to salvation
that has nothing to do with Jesus Christ.
But, Rahner writes, “I cannot do that.”
So he ends up defending the proposition that
“outside the Church there is no salvation.”
Not only is Jesus the only way to God in this theology,
but the Roman Catholic Jesus is the only way.
On the other hand, the Swiss theologian Hans Küng
has a problem with the idea of “anonymous Christians.”
He says, "It would be impossible to find anywhere in the world
a sincere Jew, Muslim, or atheist
who would not regard the assertion
that he is an 'anonymous Christian' as presumptuous."
Other theologians have called
Rahner's “anonymous Christian” notion
paternalistic and denigrating.
A look at history shows
how this kind of presumptive self-righteousness
has provided fuel for the slaughter of innocents—
the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisitions,
conquest of the Americas, the pogroms, the Holocaust.
Even though we know
that wars are mainly about power and money,
we also know that fanning the flames of religious hatred
has been used as a tactic, a weapon of war,
a way to fire up a population for political or cultural goals.
Globally we're very much aware of various followers of religions
who claim that their way is the only way.
We know about the Sunnis and the Shias.
We know about ISIL
and their massacre of both Christians and Muslims.
Here in the USA we notice some people
reacting with suspicion of people who are Muslims
or look like Middle Easterners.
Since 9/11 our own government's security forces
have practiced profiling, to the extent that
people are stopped, questioned, and detained
because they “look like” Muslims.
We have to read the scriptures carefully and with a loving heart,
so we will notice that, while John's Gospel
sows the seed for holy wars,
the other three canonical Gospels sow seeds of cooperation,
with Jesus teaching the exact opposite
of this passage from John.
Jesus' message is inclusive in Matthew, Mark, and Luke:
everyone can get to God;
you don't need a priest or a religious authority at all.
What this theological-scriptural discussion has to do with us
becomes clear when we look at our own community.
Some Christians continue to select and interpret scripture passages
in a way that condemns or excludes,
setting up excuses for them to discriminate
or, in the extreme, do harm to others.
Three years ago a man set fire to the mosque here
out of hatred for Muslims,
saying he was upset because Muslims are terrorists.
Some who purport to be Christians find grounds for hatred
on the basis of race, or gender identity, or sexual orientation.
Our scriptures can be read to call for much violence
or much love.
In every generation we are challenged to live
by the best and highest principles.
For today's Gospel passage,
we can embrace, as we did last week,
the “bread of life”
as John's way of expressing the impact
of Jesus' teaching and his inclusive table fellowship
on his followers.
We must be careful, though,
not to fall into taking literally the exclusion from Godliness
of people who find another path to God.
For us, Paul's advice to the Ephesians has a clear message,
echoing the best of our Christian tradition.
He says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”
Put away bitterness and wrath and anger
and clamor and slander and malice.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted and forgiving.
Walk in love.”

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)


Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006


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