I would like to say some words today about being a member of God's people – his chosen people… and about not judging. The history of the Old Testament is filled with stories and examples of God’s relationship with the Jewish people. In a way – it might make you wonder whether there are other faiths that have 3, 4 or 5,000-year history that speaks of their own relationship with the One True God. Setting that aside, in today’s reading for Masses, the Lord said to Abram to go forth to a land and place that he, God would show Abram. In trust – that is what we are called to do… to follow God’s will for us. We could certainly spend a week just exploring how to move in the direction of doing God’s will… but as I said, we are into different pastures today.
So let me tell you a story to set the scene for today. My father-in-law – a wonderful man died in June a year ago. He is buried on a pastoral piece of land beside the Methodist Church that the family attended for a generation or more. There are maple trees and a stream nearby – and I’ll bet that in some sense – Dad Morrison can still hear the singing of hymns during Sunday worship…
Now when we visit Pennsylvania, my wife & I always go to the gravesite to pray for – to greet and remember her dad, Mike. Dee's sister told me that she didn't feel the need to go there because she doesn't believe that that's where her dad is. In other words – a waste of time to go to a place where decaying flesh is...
I had a slightly similar reaction from my mother-in-law when we went to the gravesite and I suggested prayer. It seemed as if her view was – her husband is in heaven – no need to pray. So here we have two generations of Christians who don’t see any reason to go to a cemetery… no reason to pray in that setting for the deceased. Is there a clearer example of differences between our faiths? We Catholics are called to visit cemeteries and to pray for the deceased – it’s a part of the Corporal Works of Mercy. We honor the deceased… we invoke God’s mercy for them… and we really call upon them to reach out as Lazarus was called to in that parable story about the rich man who died after not feeding Lazarus when he was living on earth.
Well certainly, there are hundreds of examples of differences in our Christian faith beliefs … I mean what we believe about the Eucharist – some, like Methodists may have a Communion Service once a month or some such. But it doesn’t have any similar meaning to our Holy Communion … and we have the Mass – and there is little semblance of liturgy in what they practice… for them, it’s about Scripture and preaching and sometimes older, established hymns... They don’t honor saints… they don’t venerate Mary… In discussing this with my wife – I pondered how are we ever going to help our faiths find union? How to become one faith again? I guess it will rely completely on the Good God. And that dear hearts, leads me to the thoughts on not judging. Many of us are terrible about judging.
Although in the name of feel-good-ism, many want to preach a commonality that means all beliefs are equal and all are acceptable. That is, of course erroneous – it is the flawed thinking of relativism of these days. But, somehow in the certain knowledge of what we believe in… AND the WHY of what we believe, we need to not judge the hearts of others. We must recognize that in some other Christian faiths – there may be five hundred years – perhaps a hundred generations of believers in their faith walks that have led to the people we come in contact with from other Christian faiths. We can’t judge them. We cannot look down on them. We cannot pray ‘Lord, I am so glad you didn’t make me like them…” We need to be like the tax collector who says, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.”
And then, I believe it is right to ask – “Lord – in your holy will, if there is anything …. anything you would have me do to share my faith with others – please guide me. Help me. Send your most Holy Spirit.” This is the humble prayer of unity… of not judging… of not being superior to others. And for those of other faiths who preach or teach against Catholics, those who taunt our brokenness and our sometimes flawed leadership… remember what we heard in today’s reading, “I will bless those who bless you… and curse those who curse you.” Blessed be the people God has chosen… even those who may be on a different path to the Promised Land.
And may God have mercy on the soul of my father-in-law Mike Morrison – and upon all the souls of the faithful departed. Amen.