Sunday, October 17, 2004

Grace and Ecumenism

It's Sunday, a day when I try to minimize my blogging, but here is something to mull over. It is taken from D. McManaman and the subject is Christian relations with other faiths and those unchurched.
If Christ is the source of grace, can a non-Christian be in a state of grace? Strictly speaking, it is not possible to know with certainty if anyone in particular is in a state of grace, including we ourselves. When asked if she knew she was in God’s grace, St. Joan of Arc replied: “If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there” (Acts of the trial of St. Joan of Arc). ... Being in the state of grace is not about having correct theology or knowing specific truths. A Muslim may respond to the movements of interior grace to a much greater degree than the lukewarm Catholic, who is so indifferent to the demands of his religion that he does not even bother to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, let alone an entire month of the year. If Christianity is the right religion, Catholics may have more cause for fear and concern, for they will have a great deal more to answer for on the Day of Judgment. If I have been given much more than Mohandas K. Gandhi, what excuse do I have for giving back to God so much less than he did? If you have been baptized, confirmed, given the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity as well as the seven personal gifts of the Holy Spirit, the grace of regeneration, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the opportunity to receive the forgiveness of sins and the grace to overcome those sins in the future, strength in sickness, graces in matrimony, the revelation of the Old and New Testaments, sacramentals and the lives of the saints, how are you going to render an account for the fact that your life is outwardly no different than the average Hedonist, while the Muslim student who sat next to you all year prayed five times a day facing the East, gave a rather large percentage of his income to the poor, and did not allow even a drop of water to pass between his lips during daylight hours for an entire month of the year, without even half of the resources you were given?
It is, I think, a very mature response and we do well to uphold it, especially with those who would use Christianity as a shield for bigotry. Christians are often accused of arrogant and unjustified behavior in the face of difference, and no doubt it does happen. I cringe, for example, at those who like to wave signs that say things like "God hates fags." It is worth remembering that not everything done in the name of Christianity can be called Christian; that calling oneself religious does not absolve one of accountability for one's actions. The Catholic attitude towards other faiths is that they may have a percentage of truth to them, and they can use that percentage to find a greater percentage still. The Catholic is encouraged to aid that quest if he may. Sadly this response to difference is not always returned. There are some Christians - protestant fundamentalists mostly- who go so far as to deny that Catholics are even Christian. Thankfully I don't find that to be too common and I find much to like in many Evangelicals.

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