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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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Anthony Grassi: Anthony’s father died when his son was only 10 years old, but the young lad inherited his father’s devotion to Our Lady of Loreto. As a schoolboy he frequented the local church of the Oratorian Fathers, joining the religious order when he was 17.
<p>Already a fine student, he soon gained a reputation in his religious community as a "walking dictionary" who quickly grasped Scripture and theology. For some time he was tormented by scruples, but they reportedly left him at the very hour he celebrated his first Mass. From that day, serenity penetrated his very being.
</p><p>In 1621, at age 29, Anthony was struck by lightning while praying in the church of the Holy House at Loreto. He was carried paralyzed from the church, expecting to die. When he recovered in a few days he realized that he had been cured of acute indigestion. His scorched clothes were donated to the Loreto church as an offering of thanks for his new gift of life.
</p><p>More important, Anthony now felt that his life belonged entirely to God. Each year thereafter he made a pilgrimage to Loreto to express his thanks.
</p><p>He also began hearing confessions, and came to be regarded as an outstanding confessor. Simple and direct, he listened carefully to penitents, said a few words and gave a penance and absolution, frequently drawing on his gift of reading consciences.
</p><p>In 1635 he was elected superior of the Fermo Oratory. He was so well regarded that he was reelected every three years until his death. He was a quiet person and a gentle superior who did not know how to be severe. At the same time he kept the Oratorian constitutions literally, encouraging the community to do likewise.
</p><p>He refused social or civic commitments and instead would go out day or night to visit the sick or dying or anyone else needing his services. As he grew older, he had a God-given awareness of the future, a gift which he frequently used to warn or to console.
</p><p>But age brought its challenges as well. He suffered the humility of having to give up his physical faculties one by one. First was his preaching, necessitated after he lost his teeth. Then he could no longer hear confessions. Finally, after a fall, he was confined to his room. The archbishop himself came each day to give him holy Communion. One of Anthony’s final acts was to reconcile two fiercely quarreling brothers.</p> American Catholic Blog God of love, as I come to the end of this Advent season, my heart is ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I join with Mary in saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Nothing is impossible with you, O God.

 
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