Saturday, February 20, 2016

First Matters

On his recent visit to Mexico, Pope Francis made a symbolic gesture at a memorial for persons who cross the border into the US, many of whom do it illegally. On the way back home, the Pope held a press conference in the plane (link here). One reporter asked him about the US presidential candidate Donald Trump and his stand on building a wall to keep immigrants out. The Pope responded, “I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that.”

The statement by the Pope was, unsurprisingly, greeted by Trump with defensiveness. The Republican candidate for president responded, “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful” (link here). A little later, Trump was more conciliatory, saying the Pope was unaware of the drug and other problems on the border (link here).

I have been to Mexico a few times and to El Salvador and have seen some very bad living conditions. The poor are exposed to the elements and to those who would prey upon them. They may not even have a door for a secure lock, or may lack solid walls for windows.

But I want to move on to another point that comes from this short clash between Pope Francis and Donald Trump. That is, what it takes to be a Christian. The Pope has said some things about that lately that bother me though I can’t say I’m completely surprised. That is because those who are so intently focused on the poor often seem to veer off the straight and narrow of Christian beliefs. They look at the rest of the world and say to themselves that God wouldn’t send all these people to hell just because they don’t believe. So they set aside the prime necessity of believing in and evangelizing to the world about Jesus Christ.

The Pope always picks a subject for prayer intention for the month. In January, the first video made for a prayer intention was about inter-faith dialogue (link here). Pope Francis seems to minimize the differences between the faiths and says right out that “There is only one certainty we have for all. We are all Children of God.”

But this is not what the Bible says. In John, Chapter 1, it states that only those who believe in the Word made flesh (Jesus Christ) are to be called Children of God. (John 1: 12, NABRE):
But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name…
I’d like to see some changes in the Church. I’d like barrier contraception to be accepted, since right now it is regarded as evil on the basis of women having no intellect and being good only for reproduction (Thomas Aquinas). I’d like to see women become deacons of the church since the sacrament is denied to them and I don’t believe that is right. There are many Catholics who are progressive concerning changes about women and immigrants. I’d like to see conservatives more interested in these things, and maybe there are more who are so than I realize. I don’t understand why traditional Catholics who are loyal to the doctrine of the Church are often also heavy-handed about any change in women’s status and seem aloof to the problems of immigrants. There must be Catholics out there who hold to the supremacy of Jesus Christ and yet can see some need for change in other areas. After all, Christ wanted us to be compassionate to our neighbors. (It's interesting by the way that the extremes are labeled "left" and "right" which suggests each of them veering off from the "straight and narrow.")

BUT FIRST we must believe that Christ died for our sins and gives everlasting life with Him in that way. This is a serious matter and something to hold onto no matter what Pope Francis wants us to pray for and no matter what lesser changes in the Catholic Church we might like to see.

BY FAR the most important aspect of the Catholic Church is for every Christian to assume that belief in Jesus Christ is absolutely necessary for heaven and proceed in that manner. This includes telling others as well as we can about Jesus Christ and that He died for our sins and we need to believe in Him if we want everlasting life with Him.

Whatever else we do we must first be well-anchored in our faith.

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