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21 August 2016
posted by Canon Dakin on 21-09-2016

Our Lord is talking about his Church being  catholic. The word catholic is from the Greek phrase kath holen ten gen - literally, ‘over all the earth’.

It doesn’t mean that in fact the whole world will be converted though some people have expressed the urgency of it. St Cyprian, way back in the early days coined the phrase - ‘Outside the Church there is no salvation’ and from time to time people have said that means if you are not s Catholic you won’t get to heaven In the 1950s there was a Fr Feeney in America who insisted that this was true. He had his knuckles rapped. So what does the phrase mean?  There is a hint in today’s gospel. ‘Enter by the narrow door‘ said Our Lord.  He himself is that door. ‘No one can come to the Father except through me’.So what about atheists, Muslims and people who follow ancestral religions? How do they find their way through the narrow door? We know that Christ died for all, for every one who is born into this world... It is true that at Mass we say that he died ‘for many‘. That is a strict translation of the Latin. The Gospels were written in Greek.  All scholars are agreed that the Greek idiom means ‘for all’.  All are subject to the power that comes from the cross, the source of grace..  Any act of generosity, of putting another’s interests before your own, comes from the prompting of a gift of grace. In responding to that grace implicitly people are relating to Christ who died for us.  We may call them ‘anonymous Christians’. They have ‘Baptism of desire‘ and so are connected to the Church. Because of this connection they are not ‘Outside the Church’.          Our Lord in the gospel is addressing the paradox that the people chosen by God rejected Him when He appeared among them. Jesus foresees that his Church, when it takes shape will be mainly a church of the gentiles. They are the last to be called who will be the first to respond.       

 

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