What is “Christian identity”? This is important in acknowledging how we are distinctive in the world. Are we just an institution? A country club? First, let’s recall how we view other “families” in the world:
277. The Church esteems the ways in which God works in other religions, and “rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for their manner of life and conduct, their precepts and doctrines which… often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men and women”. [Nostra Aetate 2]
That said, we Christians must hold that Jesus is the defining influence for us. We can’t say it is virtue, prayer, justice, charity, or any human quality because other religions and even people of no religion possess these. The only distinctiveness in Christianity is Jesus and his Good News.
Yet we Christians are very much aware that “if the music of the Gospel ceases to resonate in our very being, we will lose the joy born of compassion, the tender love born of trust, the capacity for reconciliation that has its source in our knowledge that we have been forgiven and sent forth. If the music of the Gospel ceases to sound in our homes, our public squares, our workplaces, our political and financial life, then we will no longer hear the strains that challenge us to defend the dignity of every man and woman”. [Ecumenical Prayer Service, Riga, Latvia (24 September 2018): L’Osservatore Romano, 24-25 September 2018, p. 8]
Pope Francis seems to suggest that without Jesus the Christian will lose the grace to defend human dignity. Without prejudice to other religions, this is indeed how we see grace at work. Without Christ we can do nothing on our own initiative. What does this mean for people of other faiths? We are not God. We simply do not know, except that divine grace appears to work in those outside of the Christian faith. CCC 2478 insists we operate on that presumption.
Others drink from other sources. For us the wellspring of human dignity and fraternity is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From it, there arises, “for Christian thought and for the action of the Church, the primacy given to relationship, to the encounter with the sacred mystery of the other, to universal communion with the entire human family, as a vocation of all”.[Lectio Divina, Pontifical Lateran University, Rome (26 March 2019): L’Osservatore Romano, 27 March 2019, p. 10]
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