WORD OF FAITH
A not-so-great divide
REV. ROGER KARBAN
A not-so-great divide
by Rev. Roger Karban
teaching Scripture as a Catholic priest for over 40 years, I'm
convinced one of the reasons relatively few Catholics are turned on by
Scripture springs from a disconnect between what the "official" Church
expects of us and what our sacred authors expect.
I grew up learning that
purpose in life was to get into heaven, and I was guaranteed this would
happen if I obeyed all the rules and regulations the Church set before
me. As long as I did everything the hierarchy commanded, heaven was a
Then I began to study Scripture.
who gave us our Hebrew and
Christian Scriptures certainly didn't seem to be as worried about
getting into heaven as I was -- not even Jesus!
Until about 100 years before
Jesus' birth, people of faith didn't even have an insight into an
afterlife as we have today. And though Jesus, as a Pharisee, believed
in heaven, He never seemed to make getting there the centerpiece of his
itinerant preaching ministry.
From Sunday's Gospel (Mt.
21:28-32) it's clear the historical Jesus is concerned His followers do
what God wants them to do. But He zeroes in on His observation that
many who tell the "Father" they'll do what He commands never carry
through on their promise.
other hand, some of those
whom religious society brands as sinners are actually, in their own
roundabout way, doing what God wants.
When Jesus speaks about "tax
collectors and prostitutes entering the kingdom of God," He's not
referring to their getting into heaven. "Kingdom of God" is Jesus' way
of speaking about God working in our lives right here and now.
earthly ministry revolves
around experiencing God here, long before we experience God in
eternity. The story of the two sons demonstrates that He, like Ezekiel
(Ez. 18:25-28), believes people can change, switch their value systems
and really live the life God offers them.
Paul tells the Church in Philippi
(Phil. 2:1-11) how they're to go about surfacing not just God, but the
risen Jesus active in their lives. They can only do so by forming a
close-knit, loving community. And they can only pull that off by
imitating the dying/rising Jesus in their own lives.
Apostle's passion for
building community is clear. "If there is any encouragement in Christ,
any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and
mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, united in love,
united in heart, thinking one thing," he writes.
Paul, there's just one way to
accomplish this: "Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also
yours in Christ Jesus." Then, quoting a hymn which predates even his
own ministry, he reminds his Philippians of the heart of Christian
Jesus "humbled Himself, becoming
obedient to death, even death on a cross." Only those who, like Jesus,
make themselves the servants and slaves of others will be able to
discover the risen Jesus in their midst.
Those who spend their lives
building loving communities don't have to worry about going to heaven.
They'll slide into eternity hardly noticing the change. It will be an
eternity they've prepared for all their lives.
What's Not On
The Web | Daily
Scriptures | Sunday
Reviews | Links
Diocese | Parishes
| Albany Diocese