A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

"They sacrifice to demons, not to God"

When it comes to establishing relationships between religions, there are some who - consciously or not - aspire to a kind of syncretism. After all, they argue, we are all praying to the same God, aren't we?

Today's first reading (1 Corinthians 10:14-22) seems to take a very opposite view, as St. Paul writes about pagans:

They sacrifice to demons, not to God,
and I do not want you

to become participants with demons.

The specific matter at hand for St. Paul was the fact that the meat from pagan sacrifices was generally sold or otherwise distributed for consumption and that this posed a question of conscience for Christians. Formal participation by Christians in a pagan sacrifice is obviously wrong(10:21-22). St. Paul goes on to indicate that remote material participation in a pagan sacrifice by eating meat known to have been sacrificed would be inappropriate because of scandal (10:28-29a), but excessive scrupulosity should not cause a person to forswear all meat "just in case" (10:25-27).

In the face of this, what may be said about people in non-Judeo-Christian religions?

First of all, it must be affirmed that there are no other Gods: there is no God but God.

Second, as St. Paul says elsewhere (1 Timothy 2:4), God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." Also, to paraphrase St. Augustine, God has made us for himself and there is a restlessness in our hearts that yearns for him.

Third, as St. Paul himself did in Athens (Acts 17:16-34), although we may be distressed by other religions, we do well first to affirm that which is good in the practitioners of these religions as we seek to help them grow in knowledge of the truth.

Note here the subtle but critical distinction: to affirm that which is good in the practitioners.

I see that in every respect you are very religious.

For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines,
I even discovered an altar inscribed, 'To an Unknown God.'

What therefore you unknowingly worship,

I proclaim to you.

It is in that same sense that Vatican II spoke in Nostra Aetate, 3 (as quoted today by Cardinal Bertone as part of the response to current controversies):

"The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting."

Interfaith relations are never to be pursued or perceived as an endorsement of anything opposed to Christian teaching or - God forbid - as a celebration of communion or identity where such does not truly exist.

But as the Holy Father has said (also as quoted by Cardinal Bertone today), interfaith dialogue is not an "optional extra" - especially in a world that modern technology has made smaller and more dangerous.

Without compromising the truth or sharing in anything opposed to that truth, we must affirm the good in other people and work together for the common good, even as continue to proclaim the truth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the only Son of the one God.