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Bible Reflections View Comments

Living the Gospel Is What Really Matters
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, August 25, 2013
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From moments after his election, Pope Francis has been making headlines. His daily homilies at the guest house in Rome where he has chosen to live are spontaneous, off the cuff, and down to earth. In a world where not only politicians but also religious leaders have learned the difficult art of spinning the truth and exercising extreme caution in the way words can be interpreted, Pope Francis preaches the Gospel like a gifted parish priest.

Last spring, social media sites, Catholic news sites and even the secular news organizations were once again abuzz when Pope Francis said that Jesus redeemed everyone: “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! . . . . Even the atheists. Everyone!”

More cautious theologians were quick to ring this around with all sorts of caveats, obtuse explanations, and a general air of “Move along; nothing to see here.” But the pope not only meant what he said, he said it because in his mind, an openness to the love and mercy of God is more important than a checklist to exclude those who don’t seem to be making the grade.

We’ve all heard the saying about entering through the narrow gate. We might think that Jesus himself is talking about a way to weed out the inferior believers. But that doesn’t square with the rest of his words in the Gospels. He says it in response to “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Most likely anyone asking that kind of question about salvation in a public forum is pretty sure they are already on the list. They just want to know how exclusive the guest list is. We see this happen all the time on Catholic blogs and social media sites. Liberals and conservatives argue about who’s the most orthodox, who’s “really” Catholic. When this happens, too much energy is spent on worrying about other people being wrong than on examining what we’re doing right. Both the Gospel and the reading from Isaiah remind us that religion is neither a popularity contest nor an exclusive club. Isaiah tells us that the Lord says, “I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.”

The official stance of the Church is clear in the documents of Vatican II, in the Catechism, in the writings of the popes and the bishops. It’s also clear in the Gospel. As children of the one God, we are to see all people as our brothers and sisters, created by God and held in the infinite mystery and mercy of God’s grace.

While the headlines focused on Pope Francis saying atheists could be saved, what too many of the stories missed was that he said, “We meet each other in doing good.”

What Jesus was trying to tell his disciples is to stop worrying about who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s first and who’s last. Our focus needs to be on the Good News and the good works generated by our faith in God.

It won’t hurt any of us to step up our game a bit in living the Gospel. It’s a good way to guard against spiritual complacency, which might be the real danger of that wide, easy road. We are heirs to the inclusive love Jesus practiced as he walked this earth. We need to live our lives in a way that reflects this attitude.


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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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