Open Thread: My Way

I have a recollection of a meeting with friends who, while Catholic, were somewhat of the fundamentalist stripe. I was sharing a song from a new liturgical recording. They didn’t buy into my excitement, suggesting instead that my aim was somehow amiss. The better alternative was directly going to Jesus. For them, this meant mostly intellectual discussion. Study the Bible and struggle with it–so far, so good. But that’s about it. Other paths to God, with God, were suspect. Heady talk worked for them, so why bother risking getting lost with something else? As a twenty-something, I did recognize a my-way-or-the-highway approach.

Many Christians of the fundamentalist stripe are quite fine believers and disciples. But for some, their expectations of God are extremely narrow. They feel scolded when it is suggested there might be an alternate way. Like something personally surprising. And this is unusual, because many reformed sinners have a sense of grace. They might recognize they didn’t deserve reconciliation and harmony with Christ. But they got it.

The strange thing is that for many believers, they really seem to act as though their grace was deserved. Again: grace their way. And everybody else likely must hold to that way–the one sure way. The way they shared with God. Once. Or maybe a few times.

The alternative path is that there are many ways to God. The Bible shows it. Only problem: you have to read the whole thing with a dollop of openness. God chose people less and more righteous, within Judaism or outside of it, from the beginning or later in life, it didn’t seem to matter for either Old or New Testament. The only constants seem to be that he calls everybody and can call in nearly any way.

There is a danger with Christians pushing the attack too far with their brothers and sisters. I think some of you readers know what I mean. No one can expect to know the story of all the other hundreds of millions of believers. The pitfall is that the ally of the enemy may well have gotten into a misbegotten association.

Commentariat, have at it. Is there a Screwtape in the midst, and we don’t know about it?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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One Response to Open Thread: My Way

  1. Liam says:

    A memorable Easter homily from a priest who, I think with self-awareness and genuine humility, was more known for his five-homilies-in-a-homily ramblers (but he sure can preach a great short off-the-cuffer).

    It started by thanking God that, by the fourth century AD, Christians only decided to accept four out of many more available options for canonical Gospels. Four is plenty. The four we have offer us more than enough to chew on, spiritually.

    For example: it is especially noteworthy – but in fact rarely noted – the Gospels palpably illustrate how various disciples of Jesus came to believe in the Risen Lord in particular and varied ways. Even within the Gospel of St John itself, there are at least four different ways. Mary Magdalene, John, Peter and Thomas came to their belief in ways that were quite particular to who each of them were – and no other. (If we bring the other Gospels into play, we have yet even more ways: personally, my favorite is from Luke: Emmaus, which I think is the best reference point for our Eucharistic thanksgiving. But I digress.)

    So embedded in the *core* message of the Good News is that we each come to believe in the Risen Lord (who died – and rose – to defeat sin and death and to save us and invite us to theosis) in a particular way to who we are. Our paths may differ, but they are oriented to the same Light.

    (I should add that this same preacher finished his homily by noting that it was in that very sanctuary where the excommunication of Fr Feeney – whose offices were once across the street – was read aloud decades earlier.)

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