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May 2017

The Church is a strange institution.  I’ve worked for it most of my life.  I’ve left it several times but keep coming back. In the one hand, it carries the Good News of God’s love and with the other, it squeezes this rich and powerful message into dry and fragmented parcels packaged for its own selfish ends.  I think of the story about the conversation between a young pastor and his mentor.  The younger man says, “It doesn’t make any sense to me to say that God is love and at the same time that He consigns vast numbers of His children to eternal, burning damnation.” The other answers, “Yes, you’re right, my son, but it’s the only thing that keeps people in line and the pews full.”The Gospel of John clearly states that Jesus is the only way to Eternal Life, seeming to give us great license to condemn the heathen to eternal damnation.  But it also says, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17)  It also states in the prologue that “all things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” (John 1:3)                 Our challenge is to speak these powerful words of salvation without dividing the world into the saved and the condemned.  Pope Francis is coming close to doing that when He states:  “Many think differently, feel differently, seeking God or meeting God in different ways," he says. "In this crowd, in this range of religions, there is only one certainty we have for all: We are all children of God."  Many condemn him for these words saying, “There is only one way to meet God, and His name is Jesus Christ. To even hint at anything else causes confusion at best and deceives many at worst” (Jennifer LeClaire, Senior Editor of Charisma).                  To “name” Jesus in the way LeClaire does, ends confusion and gives those “namers” a sense of security much as the clarity of the cultic law gave a sense of security to the Pharisees.  I’d rather stick with the Pope and leave the clarity up to the Holy Spirit.  As Jesus said it is like the wind: “It blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes” (John 3:8).  Clarity comes not in “naming” but in loving.