Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19.
Second Reading: Romans 8:26-27.
Gospel: St Matthew 13:24-43.
Show favour, O Lord, to your servants and mercifully increase the gifts of your grace, that, made fervent in hope, faith and charity, they may be ever watchful in keeping your command, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Different religions really are different
All religions are not the same. To common sense, this is obvious. But common sense is not always so common. In many places, it is popular to teach the contrary truth: that all religions, underneath the apparent differences, are indeed just the same. Teaching that is dangerous, because, like all false doctrines, this one has destructive consequences.
Today’s First Reading tells us:
For neither is there any god besides you, whose care is for all people,Wisdom 12:13 NRSV-CE
There is only one God, the God of Jesus Christ. As St Peter said on Pentecost:
There is salvation in no one else [but Jesus Christ], for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’Acts 4:12
He didn’t say,
Of all the names in the world given to men, it really doesn’t matter which one you close to worship and pray to, because basically they are all the same.
Our Lord Jesus himself said,
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6
He did not say:
By the way, I am just one of history’s really great philosophers, so you can either follow me or another one, if you like, since we are all basically teaching the same thing.
St Paul also made this abundantly clear: he explained that God raised Jesus from the dead to show that he truly is the only Lord,
so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:10-11
He did not say,
In the end, some people will worship Jesus, but others won’t, because Jesus is only one of god’s many faces.
All religions are not the same. This is a truth of common sense, and a doctrine of the Church.
The easy way out
So why do we find so many people saying that they are the same, even teachers in our schools and colleges?
The first parable we read in today’s Gospel gives us the answer.
In the parable, our Lord Jesus Christ assures us that there is a real difference between the weeds and the wheat. The word used for weeds is, literally, darnel. This is a poisonous weed that, in its early stages of growth, looks almost exactly like wheat. But darnel, even though it looks like wheat at first, in the end it will sicken or kill you if you eat it, whereas if you eat the wheat it will strengthen you. Darnel is definitely not good for us. When people eat its seeds, they get dizzy, off-balance and nauseous, its official name Lolium temulentum comes from a Latin word for “drunk”.
The weeds, or the darnel, Jesus explains, stand for unrepentant sinners, people whose first priority is themselves, people who use others for their own advancement or pleasure, instead of serving them.
Jesus clearly states that these unrepentant sinners will end up in hell,
the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.Matthew 13:42
The wheat stand for the righteous, those who resisted the seductions of evil, repented from their sins, and battled against selfishness in order to follow Jesus Christ.
Jesus says that these will enter into the joy of eternal life, shining
like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.Matthew 13:43
All of this makes us very uncomfortable. We live in a fallen world. It is hard for us to resist the tugs of selfishness and sin. We prefer to give in to them, at least a little bit — it’s easier! Now, if all religions are the same, then I am free to pick and choose what I like from any of them, putting together my own personal religion according to my own personal tastes, it’s like putting together a collage of photos from different magazines. That way, I can include compassion, but not include hell, sin, repentance, and judgment. In other words, believing that all religions are the same gives me the perfect excuse for doing whatever I please in life: it turns me into my own god.
That’s the Devil’s oldest trick — just ask Adam and Eve.
Keeping our faith strong
In the Gospeal according to St John we read that:
God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life.John 3:16
Believing in Jesus, our faith, is our connection to salvation. But it is possible for that connection to become weak, like a mobile-phone connection when you’re travelling through rural Ireland. When our faith weakens, we become more vulnerable to temptations of laziness, selfishness, lust, greed, and all the sins that damage or destroy our friendship with Christ.
How can we keep the faith-connection strong? By doing two things.
First, we can exercise our faith. The more we use it, the stronger it gets. The less we use it, the weaker it gets. If you know a foreign language but never use it, it gets rusty, and then when you really need it, you suffer. We can use our faith every day simply by taking the time to pray, to read Web-sites, articles, or books that give the Christian perspective on current events, and by informing and obeying our conscience — the voice of God guiding our behaviour.
Second, we can keep our faith strong by sharing it with others. Many people do not know Jesus Christ, or they have forgotten about him, or they have the wrong idea about him. And so they are looking for happiness in the wrong places. It is up to us to reach out to them, by our words and actions, bearing witness to the truth and the goodness of Christianity.
This week, let us live with a deep sense of gratitude for the gift of faith which connects us to the one, true God, and let’s promise the Lord that we will do our part to keep that faith strong, and to share it with others.