Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Three Wise People Help Me Find A Good Shepherd for Post-Modern Times

I never really got this Good Shepherd business. Sure, Christ is the Good Shepherd for me, but what about for all my friends and family members who do not follow Him? Most of the people I love or with whom I work or share a neighborhood would not call themselves Christians. Some of them, in fact, are decidedly anti-organized religion, preferring to place their faith in humanity or the universe or in some vague sense of karma.

How is Christ their Good Shepherd too?

Three wise people lately have helped me sort out just how it is I can be a Christian, believing Christ is the origin and the destination of our lives, without falling into a sense of spiritual relativism (everyone has his or her own path; all paths are equal) or a sense of moral superiority (my faith is the answer; the rest of you are lost) Given my personality, I am much more likely to fall into the former approach than the latter.

First, on Sunday, which the Church has dubbed "Good Shepherd Sunday," one of our pastors, Father Jeff Calia, C.O., (this photo swiped from his facebook page) gave a brief, beautiful and powerful homily addressing just this conundrum. You ever feel like someone wrote  a homily just for you? That is how my husband and I felt after hearing him speak.

Father Jeff talked about the challenge of living as a Christian in a pluralistic culture. He outlined the Catholic view of salvation: we have this incredible gift to believe. Some folks don't believe because they have had lousy experiences in the Church, or they never really have been presented with the Christian claim in its entirety. Yes, we do believe Christ and His Church represent the fullness of truth, but we are in no position whatsoever to sit in judgment of others and their relationships with the Divine. That is not our job.

At the end of our days, we will be surprised to discover that atheists might be in heaven or others who do not embrace Christ as the origin and destiny of their existence. God can save anyone, even those who might not embrace Him. Christ tells us "And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well." He will not abandon any of us.

On Sunday, Father Jeff tweeted: Sun. : If we are saved it is through the Good Shepherd; but He also has other sheep not of this flock. Proclaim Him, & respect them.

My second wise person comes in the form of a blogger I never have met named Cari Donaldson.  I read her conversion story a few months ago and one piece of that journey moved me deeply. You see,  those of us who were raised as Christians can sometimes take it all granted. Pathetic but true. 
In contrast, Cari Donaldson, in describing her circuitous journey toward faith, did not take anything  for granted. She writes about discovering online exactly what Christianity claims.

The search engine helpfully directed me to the first chapter of John, specifically the first few verses.  Then it helpfully directed me to a website where I could read these verses in about a million different translations.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

You know the phrase, “my blood ran cold”?  And when you feel it, you’re so scared that it’s like your blood has actually turned to ice water? 

There is an opposite feeling, but I don’t know if there’s an idiom for it.  It’s when you’re so suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of safety that your blood feels like it’s made of sunlight.  That’s what I felt when I read those words in John.

The third wise person is someone whose works I read and whose charism I follow, the late Monsignor Luigi Giusanni, founder of the ecclesiastical movement Communion and Liberation. In our  School of Community, we are working our way through Monsignor Luigi Giusanni's book "At the Origin of the Christian Claim. " Giussani illuminates that Christ, and only Christ, claims to be the Son of God. Buddha never said he was, nor did Mohammed, nor any other religious figure. Those men might point people to the Divine, but none of them ever claimed to be Divine. At my School of Community we read together these words as Giussani counsels us on how best to approach the Gospels: "The story we are about to approach aims to trace the course of an encounter between the bearer and the object of the most extraordinary revealing claim ever made in the history of man."
This is the Christian claim. 
All religions and so many of our efforts strive to connect human beings with something eternal. (See all those arrows pointing up in the photo?) This is a beautiful thing. We spend our lives demanding revelation. We search for what is lasting, never-ending; we want something that offers us ultimate meaning. We don't need to devise our own ways to find this, however. God, through Christ, descended into our lives; He broke into human history at a certain time and in a certain place and is still with us today. He alone is our Good Shepherd.

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