In recent years Pope Francis sparked a bit of controversy among the more stiff necked black and white Catholics about the differences in religions as being a path to the Lord. I’d like to explore that now.
Jesus says that he is the way the truth and the life. While that is correct, it means the path to Salvation and truth, not exactly the only path to Jesus Himself. All religions around the world are a path to God in the sense that they show mankind as being on a journey, perhaps not the complete path, but nevertheless a way to Christ.
Peoples desire to worship God or multiple gods or even worship each other as they do with celebrities is proof that the path they’re on is one towards God. Unlike Atheism, people who are religious and spiritual are off to a good start. That’s how St.Paul treated the pagans who worshipped this statue and a god who had no name.
He saw that they were off to a good start and he decided to let them know that while they indeed worshipped God (acknowledging they were on a path to Christ) he wanted to show them who exactly that God was and help them reach their destination. He didn’t change the path to God they were on but simply narrowed it down for them and gave them the right tools to get to Jesus and be saved.
St.Paul didn’t say “You’re on the wrong path” only that, “What therefore you worship, without knowing it, that I preach to you:”
For passing by, and seeing your idols, I found an altar also, on which was written: To the unknown God. What therefore you worship, without knowing it, that I preach to you:Acts:17:23
St.Paul actually said they were worshipping Jesus in whatever limited ability Christ gave them. What he did was he tweaked it a little bit for them. This morning I took out my radio and although the station was coming through and the music could be heard, it needed a little tweaking or tuning before it became clear. “There we go” I said to my son, “It’s much clearer now”.
I like to think of the major religions of the world like Islam and Judaism etc as being similar to a radio not quite in tune yet. Gods Holy Spirit can be seen at work through many of these religions. Their desire to worship and religious behavior is a reflection of God Himself. In other words the music is there.
All that is needed is to tune it some more so that Christ (the music) can be heard and it becomes clear to them exactly what it is they’re worshipping. You see, in their error they have mislabeled the song as something else. It’s an easy mistake to make when the sound is muffled, right? The soul is like a radio to God and through no fault of our own, our gift of free will and original sin muffle the sound of truth.
And because God will not impose himself upon us or violate that free will, the sound of the music he makes is not as clear as we’d like it to be. Therefore we end up listening to something and saying, “Sounds like Bob Dylan singing” until someone comes long to make a correction, “Here let me tune that for you”. “Ah wait, now I know who it is. It’s actually Tom Waits. Easy mistake to make, right? I was close wasn’t I? Thanks for the help”
All religions are close and a path to God in that sense but as for salvation well only Jesus is the Way, the truth and the life. All of us baptized Christians are called to go to the ends of our communities and the earth to spread that word and help fine tune what it is people already worship. Our mission is even to baptized Catholics who tend to worship their own version of the faith accepting this doctrine and rejecting the other. Even they need their blurry image of Christ fine tuned.
Therefore when the Vatican comes out and makes these statements it’s easy to see how small minded souls perceive it as being in error. As much as the Pope would like to be able to cover his tracks he can’t do it with everything. Sometimes people are responsible for doing their own research on the subject and to better catechize themselves on these important topics.
Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and the many Christian denominations not to mention Catholics are on a path to Christ. It is our responsibility to help them fine tune what it is they worship and to narrow it down for them. That’s the calling of the evangelist. Our calling is not to say you’re on the wrong pah. Our vocation is to imitate Paul as he imitated Christ and to join in with St.Paul letting them know they’re off to a good start by saying, “What therefore you worship, without knowing it, that I preach to you“.
Yes, God can speak to us through other religions. After all if he can speak through the mouth of a Donkey in the Old Testament why not that of a Philistine, Assyrian, Babylonian, Islamic teacher, Buddhist practitioner or a protestant Christian pastor? Christ is always in our midst no matter what religion it is. We do them a great service when go into their midst with Christ and help them fine tune that radio they’re listening to.