“They call you Christ, Vishnu, Buddha, Jehovah, Our Lord.  You are Govindam, Bismillah, Creator of All.  You are the One, no matter what.”  These are the words that George Harrison sang in his 1981 song “Life Itself” recorded on the album “Somewhere in England”.  The lyrics denote a common belief that all religions are equal and that all paths lead to eternal salvation.

The Gospel says something very different: “I am the gate.  Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture”. (John 10: 9)

Are all religions equal?  Are all religions worshipping the same God?  Does it really matter what religion I belong to so long as I am a good person?

To answer these questions let us first divide religions into two categories: non-Christian religions and Christian religions.

To be a Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jew or a member of any other non-Christian religion is not the same as being a Christian. The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.  She esteems the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrine which, although differing in many ways from her own teachings, nevertheless often contain seeds of the same truth which enlightens all peoples.[1]

Nevertheless, Christianity proclaims the fundamental belief that Jesus, through the mystery of the Incarnation, died on the cross and rose from the dead for our salvation.  He came as the way and the truth, not as a way and a truth among many others.  “Only in him is there salvation; for all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved”. (Acts 4: 12)

Unfortunately, due to many sad historical disputes, Christianity is divided into many different denominations.  All Christians hold much in common, but at the same time, there is much that divides us.

The Orthodox Churches are the closest to the Catholic Church.  They do not have full communion with the Catholic Church because they do not accept the primacy of the pope.  But, they do remain close to us because they have apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist.

The Protestant ecclesial communions are considered as our separated brothers and sisters. Those who are baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, although imperfect, with the Church.  These communities have elements of the truth, but they do not possess the fullness of the truth as does the one Church which was established by Jesus on the Apostle Peter.[2]

While the Church looks upon all religions with respect, dignity, collaboration and dialogue, it cannot subtract from its divine mandate “to teach all nations”. (cf. Matthew 28: 16-20)   The Acts of the Apostles, through the words of Peter, reminds us of the missionary activity of the Church which stems from the reality that the risen Jesus is indeed the savior of the world. “He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation’.  Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day”. (Acts 2: 40-41)

In conclusion, what practical lessons from this Sunday’s liturgy can we apply to the living out of our daily lives?  First of all, as Catholics we must proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ by the authentic witness of our actions.  True witness of discipleship is always more convincing than empty words.  Secondly, Catholics must make an asserted effort to know the Faith.  Ignorance on the part of many regarding the most rudimentary aspects of Catholicism is astounding.  Most people can rattle off the results of the weekend sporting events, but how many people can list the Ten Commandments or the Seven Sacraments?

[1] For a complete understanding of the Catholic Church’s relationship with non-Christian religions, cf: Vatican Council II, Nostra aetate and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Jesus.

[2] For a complete understanding of the Catholic Church’s relationship with Christian religions, cf: Vatican Council II, Unitatis redintegratio, Dominus Jesus (CDF), and Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church (CDF).

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