"There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved." These words of St. Peter, which conclude our first reading today, thrill and disturb, depending at what point in history you are living. For centuries, Europe and America prided itself on being "Christian" and readily accepted this belief. But how things have changed! Today, as some call all people to a "New World Order," they are demanding that we give up these divisive beliefs of uniqueness and all go into a psychotic regression where we fall to pieces. The "Big Daddies" standing by will then take the pieces and build a unified, look-alike human family. Have you ever heard of anything so sickening and lacking in Gospel truthfulness?
When the early Christians moved into the Roman world, they were confronted with the same issues. The Romans prided themselves on knowing how to create a unity and peace amid very diverse peoples and beliefs. When this small, strange group of people called Christians came along, the Romans had the solution. Their God was given a space on shelf 17, in the 23rd spot among all the other gods. The Christians said, NO. There is but one God and we believe in this one God. This immediately made the Christians troublemakers, disturbing the wonderful order established by the Romans. This, along with other factors, like charges of cannibalism at worship services, brought persecution upon them. Judaism lived peacefully in the Roman world even though it believed in one God. The Romans had great respect for antiquity, so the Jews were well tolerated.
The defenders of the early Church tried to show that Christianity was but a blossoming of this antiquity and bringing it to its fullness. I am not sure how well they sold this to the Romans.
With the conversion of Constantine, the great Christian era began. This need to defend your uniqueness in a very pluralistic world subsided, until recent times.
We live in a world of movement and sound, that gets bored with silence and permanence. Jesus was born as an actual human being, into history, into time and said certain defined things. How Boring!! This can get old very fast. Wouldn’t it be better to have a religion defined by myths, which can change by addition whenever you desire. Religion should have the changeability of a snake that sheds its skin and gets a new one. Jesus is the same, today, yesterday and forever. That sounds like one of those old bodies found in the frozen glaciers of Alaska. The frenetic nature of the modern mind, which gets bored with its own boredom, can find it very difficult to believe that Jesus is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved. There must be many ways, doors through which we can enter, many vines to which we can be attached and draw our spiritual life! Toleration is the great virtue of today. Truth is all things, opinions, well tolerated and kept down with a heavy does of antacids or should we say, the lack of reflection.
St. Paul tells us that Jesus ascended so that he can fill the whole world. Our Risen Lord is not restricted to time and space but he fills the world, radiating his Holy Spirit, calling all people to God’s life and love. There may well be many who do not know the name of "Jesus" but who feel and respond to the call of the Risen Christ, the King of the Universe. They are saved through Christ. Others may dislike the imagined arrogance of the Christians, telling them how they are saved but then just think of all the absolute statements they make that we must let be. The unity that God seeks is the community of diverse peoples, living with and respecting each other in a loving way. He is not seeking a unity that comes from the psychotic dismantling of humanity and a new putting together based on human greed and idolatry.
Fr. Blaise Czaja, C.P. gives parish missions and retreats. He is a member of the Passionist Community in Detroit, Michigan.