A few days ago, a group of cardinals and bishops, included Cardinal Raymond Burke, issued a document called a “Declaration of the truths relating to some of the most common errors in the life of the Church of our time.” This paragraph in the document caught my attention.
Muslims and others who lack faith in Jesus Christ, God and man, even monotheists, cannot give to God the same adoration as Christians do, that is to say, supernatural worship in Spirit and in Truth (see Jn 4:24; Eph 2:8) of those who have received the Spirit of filial adoption (see Rom 8:15).
This may sound boastful and smack of exceptionalism of our Christian faith. In our egalitarian times, when the common tendency is to make all religions and faiths equal, such a statement could easily be rejected as being unnecessarily dismissive of other religions.
But why should we in this age of religious pluralism still profess and worship the One True God alone, a living communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Why do other monotheistic religions fall short in this regard?
The first reason is that we are in desperate need of a mediator between us and God if we are going to have any share in what truly belongs to God alone. We need a mediator who can relate with our human nature and also make available to us the very inner life and love of God. And that mediator is the God-man, Jesus Christ, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.”(1Tim 2:5) It is only through communion with the humanity of Christ that we are brought into fellowship with the divine persons of the Trinity. Jesus says it this way, “No one can come to the Father except through me.”(Jn 14:6)
Secondly, it is only through our entering into living communion with the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – that we have full access to all that we find in Christ Jesus. Jesus Himself declared, “Everything that the Father has is mine.” We have access to all that Jesus has received from the Father only because Jesus has given to us His own Spirit of truth, “He (the Holy Spirit) will glorify me, because He will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”(Jn 16:14)
What is this thing that is in Christ that the Holy Spirit will declare to us? The answer is this: Everything by which Jesus offered perfect worship to the Father in His Spirit. We share in His sonship and become children of God who joyfully worship God as our loving Father and not for what we can get from Him. We share in His own spirit of loving obedience to the Father so that our worship is also shown in living according to the divine will no matter the pains and suffering that this will cost us. We participate in His own perfect worship of the Father in the Spirit by which we too make a complete gift of ourselves to God just like Jesus did, “Jesus Christ offered Himself to God without blemish through the eternal Spirit.”(Heb 9:14) We also become coheirs with Jesus of heavenly glory. We participate in His victory over trials, temptations, sin and death as Jesus promised us as He brought us into communion with the Father, “Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and he will greater ones that these because I go to the Father.”(Jn 14:12)
In short, it is only in and through Jesus Christ that we can adore and worship the true God “in spirit and in truth.”(Jn 4:24) Without Christ as Mediator, we either approach God with slave-like fear because we see Him as a tyrannical dictator, or we simply rebel because we fail to see God as loving Father who loves us and wisely guides us by His Spirit to what is eternally best for us.
Without this living communion with the Trinity, we lack the true worship of Christ. We worship God based on our own taste and preferences. Our obedience becomes conditional and lacking in that generosity that we find in Jesus. Our worship does not go beyond our devotional life or Sunday worship. We cannot break away from seeking only our own selfish interests even as we claim to worship God. We hold back from full worship of God because of the pains and trials of life.
St. Paul shows us an example of one who is worshipping and living in communion with the Holy Trinity. He lives in the full conviction of who the Father is and what He has done for us in the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” He knows Christ as His infallible mediator with God, “Through Christ we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand.” He finds all his confidence in God, “We boast in hope of the glory of God.”
His trials and afflictions does not take away his boasting in God, “We even boast of our afflictions.” By worshipping God even in these afflictions, he matures in his endurance, he proves his true character, and he experiences a hope that does not disappoint him “because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Jesus Christ faced suffering and death with the certainty that the Father will not disappoint Him. Thus He worshipped the Father, not just by His intense life of prayer but by obeying His Father’s will even to the painful death on the cross. By possessing the love of His Spirit in our hearts, we too can lovingly obey God with that certainty that He will not disappoint us in this life or in the life to come.
Some theologians have opined that this “Declaration of truth” is a mild rebuke of an earlier joint declaration of Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb in Abu Dhabi in February this year in a document entitled “On Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.” This document has these controversial words, “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.”
The bottom line is that if God willed a diversity of religions as this document indicates, then God settled for an imperfect worship, a worship unworthy of His nature and majesty. It means that God willed to be worshipped without the mediation of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and a worship in which we do not participate at all in Christ’s own worship by the Spirit. It implies that God desires that some people worship Him as slaves and not as His beloved children in Christ. Nothing can be further from the truth.
Whatever the motive for the “Declaration of truth,” it is invaluable in reminding us of why we Christians need to worship the Triune God alone in these times when Christian worship is easily reduced to liturgical celebrations, personal prayer, reading the scriptures, and some communal services. How easy it is for us to abandon our worship of God today because of the pains and afflictions of life. The scandals in the Church today and the subsequent abandoning of the faith by many of the faithful is an indication that our worship is more of a caricature of the true worship that God deserves.
We do not need to lose hope. But let us unite ourselves intensely to the humanity of Christ whom who receive in this Eucharist. Let Him draw us into the love of the Father and the Holy Spirit as only He can as our infallible Mediator. Then we too can have access to all that we see in Christ, especially His own perfect worship of the Father so that we can worship the true God in spirit and in truth.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!