We Needs To Listen
Thoughts on the First Readings – Joe Frankenfield
A solemn, young Catholic once told me that the first thing that we need to be clear about when talking with other religions is that God has told our church everything important there is to know about faith. As he saw it, others need us, we don’t need them. He wanted Catholics to be clear about that lest we not only lose the truth that God has given us but deny our truth to others and be responsible for the loss of their souls. He saw a great danger that we, in our effort to be friends with other religions, would adopt an everyone-has-his-own-truth mentality.
Why do we have an ecumenical movement? Is it simply to get all religions to play nicely together? That’s certainly a noble goal but there’s a more important one. The central reason for religion is to bring those who practice it into harmony with the Creator and the universe He creates. The ecumenical movement gathers folks from various religions to pool their experience and wisdom about how to do that.
A religion has to enter the ecumenical discussion aware that its truths are contained in words, ideas and rituals that are imperfect. No one can equate their description of God or life with God or life itself. Descriptions are partial, conditioned by factors like time, place, language, culture, perspective and history. This means that we know truth but, especially when we’re discussing the relationship between God and human beings, we never know it totally and we never express it completely. In fact, our ignorance is much greater than our knowledge.
We enter into ecumenical discussion because we desperately need to learn from others what they know of God and what they know of people so that we can improve our ability see and understand both.
All this is impossible if we can’t enter into the conversation without putting aside the fear that learning more will rob us of what we already know. Only when we overcome that apprehension will we learn that truth is always larger than our assumptions.