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Bible Reflections View Comments

Living the Gospel Is What Really Matters
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, August 25, 2013
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From moments after his election, Pope Francis has been making headlines. His daily homilies at the guest house in Rome where he has chosen to live are spontaneous, off the cuff, and down to earth. In a world where not only politicians but also religious leaders have learned the difficult art of spinning the truth and exercising extreme caution in the way words can be interpreted, Pope Francis preaches the Gospel like a gifted parish priest.

Last spring, social media sites, Catholic news sites and even the secular news organizations were once again abuzz when Pope Francis said that Jesus redeemed everyone: “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! . . . . Even the atheists. Everyone!”

More cautious theologians were quick to ring this around with all sorts of caveats, obtuse explanations, and a general air of “Move along; nothing to see here.” But the pope not only meant what he said, he said it because in his mind, an openness to the love and mercy of God is more important than a checklist to exclude those who don’t seem to be making the grade.

We’ve all heard the saying about entering through the narrow gate. We might think that Jesus himself is talking about a way to weed out the inferior believers. But that doesn’t square with the rest of his words in the Gospels. He says it in response to “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Most likely anyone asking that kind of question about salvation in a public forum is pretty sure they are already on the list. They just want to know how exclusive the guest list is. We see this happen all the time on Catholic blogs and social media sites. Liberals and conservatives argue about who’s the most orthodox, who’s “really” Catholic. When this happens, too much energy is spent on worrying about other people being wrong than on examining what we’re doing right. Both the Gospel and the reading from Isaiah remind us that religion is neither a popularity contest nor an exclusive club. Isaiah tells us that the Lord says, “I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.”

The official stance of the Church is clear in the documents of Vatican II, in the Catechism, in the writings of the popes and the bishops. It’s also clear in the Gospel. As children of the one God, we are to see all people as our brothers and sisters, created by God and held in the infinite mystery and mercy of God’s grace.

While the headlines focused on Pope Francis saying atheists could be saved, what too many of the stories missed was that he said, “We meet each other in doing good.”

What Jesus was trying to tell his disciples is to stop worrying about who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s first and who’s last. Our focus needs to be on the Good News and the good works generated by our faith in God.

It won’t hurt any of us to step up our game a bit in living the Gospel. It’s a good way to guard against spiritual complacency, which might be the real danger of that wide, easy road. We are heirs to the inclusive love Jesus practiced as he walked this earth. We need to live our lives in a way that reflects this attitude.


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Ansgar: The “apostle of the north” (Scandinavia) had enough frustrations to become a saint—and he did. He became a Benedictine at Corbie, France, where he had been educated. Three years later, when the king of Denmark became a convert, Ansgar went to that country for three years of missionary work, without noticeable success. Sweden asked for Christian missionaries, and he went there, suffering capture by pirates and other hardships on the way. Fewer than two years later, he was recalled, to become abbot of New Corbie (Corvey) and bishop of Hamburg. The pope made him legate for the Scandinavian missions. Funds for the northern apostolate stopped with Emperor Louis’s death. After 13 years’ work in Hamburg, Ansgar saw it burned to the ground by invading Northmen; Sweden and Denmark returned to paganism. 
<p>He directed new apostolic activities in the North, traveling to Denmark and being instrumental in the conversion of another king. By the strange device of casting lots, the king of Sweden allowed the Christian missionaries to return. </p><p>Ansgar’s biographers remark that he was an extraordinary preacher, a humble and ascetical priest. He was devoted to the poor and the sick, imitating the Lord in washing their feet and waiting on them at table. He died peacefully at Bremen, Germany, without achieving his wish to be a martyr. </p><p>Sweden became pagan again after his death, and remained so until the coming of missionaries two centuries later.</p> American Catholic Blog Every vocation is a vocation to sacrifice and to joy. It is a call to the knowledge of God, to the recognition of God as our Father, to joy in the understanding of His mercy.

 
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