Sunday, April 17, 2016

Reflections for the 4th Week of Easter, Part 1

Monday – One Gate

Jesus couldn't have been any more definitive: “I am the gate.” There is only one way for our sins to be forgiven. There is only one way to be saved. There is only one way to get to Heaven.

Jesus is the way. He is the gate. We must go through Him, or we won't go at all.

Is that shocking? In this world where pluralism and relativism are valued, Jesus' exclusive claim may seem out of fashion or even offensive. But it is still true.

There is only one gate, only one way to enter into salvation, and that is Jesus.

Does this mean that people who have never met Jesus during their lives will have no chance to make it to Heaven? No. Jesus has His ways. We don't know exactly what happens in those last few moments of life, in the brief span between this world and the next. Perhaps even in that tiny window of time, the dying will meet, recognize, and embrace their Lord. Or perhaps they already knew Him in some form or another and didn't even realize it.

That being said, however, there is still only one gate. If anyone is saved, if anyone will spend eternity in Heaven, it is because they entered through Jesus Christ.

Tuesday – City of God

In today's psalm, the Psalmist rejoices that he is in Zion (Jerusalem), the city of God. Zion is God's dwelling on earth, the Psalmist implies, and those born within her and living within her should sing and dance for joy because they make their home in the presence of God.

We Catholics have our own city of God: the Catholic Church. God dwells in a special way in every single Catholic Church, for Jesus Christ is really present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the tabernacle. We, too, are invited to sing and dance for joy in God's presence and to make our spiritual home in the Church. We have, after all, been born again in Baptism, the sacrament in which God became our Father and the Church our Mother.

Being Catholic is a cause for celebration. We are blessed to possess the fullness of the Christian faith. Every single sacrament and grace that God has provided for our salvation is accessible through the Catholic Church in marvelous, miraculous, and amazing ways. And best yet, we have Jesus Christ Himself in the Eucharist, and we can receive Him personally, intimately, at every Mass.

Indeed, as the Psalmist exclaims, “Glorious things are said of you, O city of God!”

Wednesday – Not to Condemn

Some people may be surprised by Jesus' words in today's Gospel: “And if anyone hears My words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.”

Believe it or not, Jesus is not in the business of sending people to hell. He isn't standing around with a checklist, ticking off boxes in columns that say “right” and “wrong” at the top. Rather, Jesus is our Savior. He joins His Father in willing that everyone be saved and end up in Heaven.

Unfortunately, though, hell is real, and tragically, some people probably do go there. But if Jesus doesn't condemn them, then who does? Really, they condemn themselves. They make a free choice to follow the wrong path. They turn their backs on God. They decide for their own will rather than His. They refuse to obey His laws. They say a firm no to His love. They won't allow Him into their hearts. They stubbornly face the other way. If they choose this course all the way to the end of their lives, then they have chosen their own destiny. They didn't want God in life, and they continue to reject Him in eternity.

And God lets them go. He lets them have their way. Ever the Divine Gentlemen, He will not force Himself upon them but leaves them free to choose, and if they choose life and death without Him, then He respects that choice, even though it breaks His heart.

No, Jesus has not come to condemn anyone. He longs to save the whole world, but He will not do so without the cooperation of each and every individual human being.

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