Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Salvation Outside the Church (in Jesus Christ)

Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12

The story in today’s gospel about the story of the wise men (or the three Kings from the Orient) is found only in Matthew. Luke, Mark and John never mention about this story in their gospels. And so the question arises: What does it mean? What is Matthew trying to tell us? Surely, there is a wonderful truth that Matthew took all the troubles to preserve the story in his gospel. The second reading today gives us the answer-- it's a revelation of a mystery; that pagans now share the same inheritance as the Jews. The pagans too are part of the same body of Christ.

The three Kings are the Gentiles, the non-Jews, like you and I. They are representing the "pagans". In other words, Jesus Christ is born for all peoples. He came not only for the chosen race but the human race. He manifests not only for the Jews but for all of us. This is the truth that was proclaimed long before the Saviour born (as the first reading clearly has pointed out.) Unfortunately, this message doesn’t seem to have been understood by many people--not only by those in the Old Testament and in the New Testament but also by many people of today.

Now, you listen to this story... Few years ago one of my friends was diagnosed of having cancer. She was a Sabahan but working in Kuching, Sarawak. To make thing worse, her father was paralyzed and so her mother had to look after her father. She had 2 sisters and 1 brother but all of them were working in Peninsula Malaysia. And so, she was all by herself in Kuching General Hospital.

One of the nurses, apparently was observing her and realized her situation. So the nurse voluntarily had looked after her. She called all the members of her family so that they could take turn looking after her literally almost every single minute. Her sisters came, her mother and even her husband and children came to give necessary aids to this friend of mine. This wonderful nurse (and this i want you to pay attention) nevertheless was and is still now a Muslim.

My question, therefore, is; where do you think this Muslim nurse will go when she die? Do you think God will spare for her a room in the eternal kingdom? What about other non-Christians who have done good things in their life, say for instance Mahatma Ghandi? Where do you think he is now?

The Second Vatican Council states in a document called Nostra Aetate, the Declaration on the relationship of the church to non-Christian religions, that the Church rejects nothing of the truth and holiness found in the other religions; the church considers with respect even those doctrines of theirs which differ from the Church teaching but often contain a ray of eternal TRUTH. And so Christians must oppose every form of discrimination among men, based on status, race or creed. In that sense, the Church acknowledges that there is salvation outside the Church.

Many Christians probably would find it hard to accept. But we must look at it from the point of view of our Lord Jesus Christ, the absolute truth and the fullness of revelation. Remember that he is born for all people, for all human races. And on top of it, no one should underestimate his mercy, his compassion, his mission for all.

And so as we celebrate the feast of Epiphany, the manifestation of God in Jesus Christ, let’s be open to all forms of dialog with other religions. Let’s not be so cynical and skeptical towards people of others beliefs. The Muslim nurse in my story just now has allowed herself to manifest God’s love to my suffering friend regardless of beliefs and racial differences. It’s a total and unselfish offering of oneself. Let’s learn from her. Let’s reflect the epiphany in our deeds, in our thoughts, in our words and make tomorrow a better world for everyone.

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