This Reflection was taken from the Sunday Mass Readings of Jan. 26, 2014:
In today’s second reading, St. Paul admonishes his brothers and sisters (which includes us as well as the Corinthians), “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.” Between our Roman Catholicism, our Eastern Orthodoxy, and our Protestantism (as well as others), we aren’t exactly following Paul’s advice. I’ll give you an example.
Many Christians believe that Christ had brothers and sisters–that is, in the sense that we generally think of siblings today: they claim that Mary had other children. That is not true (according to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church), and I will tell you why.
It was a Jewish custom to call close relatives (such as cousins) “brothers” and “sisters.” Apparently, the Hebrew language didn’t have a word for “cousin,” which may be why they originally wrote “brother” instead. It could also be that they were thinking in Hebrew while writing in Greek. For example, Luke’s Gospel 8:19-20: “Then his mother and his brothers came to him but were unable to join him because of the crowd. He was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you.’” They are referring to Mary and, probably, some of Jesus’ cousins or close friends. Furthermore, look at what Jesus says in reply (“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it”), and even look at the beginning of today’s second reading, where Paul addresses the Corinthians (obviously not all his brothers and sisters) as “brothers and sisters.” Plus, why (while he was hanging on the Cross) would Jesus have to leave his mother in the care of the Apostle John if Jesus had biological brothers?
If you want to have it explained more in-depth (and see where I looked to get some of the above info), please visit: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/documents/Did%20Jesus%20have%20Brothers%20and%20Sisters.htm
This is just one of many discrepancies between alternative Christian faiths (other examples being the Real Presence in the Eucharist and the formal forgiveness of sins–to name just a few). It is sad that we must have these differences; they weaken not only the impact of Christianity among the other major worldviews (it’s as though we’re assisting those worldviews in the “divide and conquer” strategy), but also within itself. We must strive to overcome these differences; and in the meantime, we should try (when it’s helpful) to see past them to our unifying love of God’s Word–and the love of that Word made Flesh.
Truth is objective: therefore, some Christians are right, and some are wrong, in these discrepancies (being Roman Catholic, I obviously side with the Roman Catholics). But there is one Truth which binds us all: Jesus.
Jesus teaches us through the Bible. Now while there are many people additionally inspired with Truth by the Lord, the Catholic Church is the only religion that has a Magisterium which is inspired and guided, to this very day, by the Holy Spirit–a blessing that has been in place ever since Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to His Apostles at Pentecost. Let me add that it’s a very handy thing to have, considering the modern-day things we come up against in our faith.
A quick point I wish to make: Jesus is called the “Word made Flesh.” Similarly, the Bible is the Word of God. Therefore, those who do not try to love the Word–the whole Word, Old and New Testaments, as opposed to picking and choosing the parts they like–cannot truthfully claim to love Jesus. Both the Word and the Son (Word made Flesh) are of God; those who cannot respect the entirety of both cannot respect the entirety of God. And I’m pretty sure that we don’t get the options of “maybe” and “mostly” when we’re dealing with God. Either we follow him completely (to the best of our ability), or we don’t truly follow him at all.
In Mt 7:15, Jesus warns us “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.” Like this passage, there are some so-called “Christians,” and so-called “Christian Faiths,” which are not Christian at all. These religions, though they may have the best of intentions, are swayed by society’s views at the times of their institutions. Again, they may mean well and try to follow Jesus, but some of the Truth in his words is lost to them. Some of them don’t even believe in going by the Bible. Beware of these people, these “false prophets;” those who don’t lead us astray on purpose may do so accidentally, preaching acceptance of sin and renunciation of the Bible. We should pray for these people, and pray for ourselves that the Truth might not be shielded from our eyes as it somehow has been from theirs.
There are even some who are members of long-standing Christian churches–some of whom are Roman Catholics–who will tell you that it’s acceptable to practice homosexuality or to have abortions. Many of these people (who need our prayers) have been manipulated by secular society, whether in the classroom or in the social media. They are taught–or in some cases, coerced–to believe that these practices which go against their faith are acceptable. Some of them just find those teachings to be easier to go by than they do the Christian faith, either because it’s more convenient, or because they think they’ll be disliked if they don’t go along with such secular teachings (or some combination thereof); others will turn from the full teaching of the Bible for the sake of politics. They still try to give the Lord some credence, but clearly not as much as they give to the stance of their political parties.
Beware also of those mentioned in that last paragraph; often without realizing it, they have potential to lead others into the very worst kinds of sins. They need our prayers and loving guidance, so that they may see the whole of God’s Truths.
But at the same time, they pose some of the biggest problems to the strengths of their given churches (I’ll use the Catholic Church as an example). It was heretical enough when Protestants split off of the Catholic Church all those years ago and formed their own churches (and I mean nothing against them personally when I say that); but now, we have churches within churches, faiths within faiths. People who claim to follow the teaching of the Church won’t even keep to the Truth. By promoting sins–even sins such as not going to weekly Mass, which far too many people view as unimportant–they strike at the very heart of Catholicism. They try to incorporate secular teachings into the Faith, and thereby twisting Christianity and watering it down, making it into something that it’s not; trying to make it an “easier” faith. The thing is, Christianity was never meant to be “easy.” Unless, of course, I’m quite mistaken, and the lines “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 17:24) actually translate to “This is an easy and fun religion, do whatever feels best.” Keep in mind–this isn’t just something to remind others of. We must remind ourselves of it, too. Constantly.
We must strive and pray for greater unity in our Christian Faith, that the Word of God may be strong in all of our hearts, as it ought to be. We all should try to teach our “brothers and sisters” in Christ of the true, loving, eternal nature of our God as best we can. For God does not exist within time; rather, he invented time. In other words, he’s not going to change his mind over the course of time, as many people would like to think, and “go back on” his Word. Pray for the people who seem to think he would–and for those mentioned above. If we want to further our Lord’s will, we must help these people to see the Truth as best we can, with all the humility and gentleness we have.
“By their fruits you will know them.”–Jesus (Mt 7:16)
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, you will be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”–Jesus (Mt 7:1-2)
by Cameron Daly