Fair is fair

This story is told about Kruger, the great South African statesman, who lived at the beginning of this century. He was called upon to settle a dispute between two brothers. This dispute involved the equal division of land between the two. The land contained mines, lakes, rivers, and beautiful scenery, and Kruger knew that no matter how he divided it, he was bound to run afoul of at least one of the brothers.

He pondered the problem at great length, and then he came up with the solution. He called the two brothers together and he gave one of them the task of dividing the land in two. When he had finished, Kruger gave the other brother the choice as to which half he wanted.

- Coming to a fair decision can often be easy; getting people to see and accept the decision is fair, can be virtually impossible.

- Have you ever been in a restaurant and ordered your meal, and were sorry you didn’t order what the person at the next table had just been served?

- taken from “150 More Stories for Preachers and Teachers” by Jack McArdle
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Genesis 13:2, 5-18

Abram was a very rich man, with livestock, silver and gold. Lot, who was travelling with Abram, had flocks and cattle of his own, and tents too. The land was not sufficient to accommodate them both at once, for they had too many possessions to be able to live together. Dispute broke out between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and those of Lot’s. (The Canaanites and the Perizzites were then living in the land.) Accordingly Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no dispute between me and you, nor between my herdsmen and yours, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land open before you? Part company with me: i you take the left, I will go right; if you take the right, I will go left.”

Looking round, Lot saw all the Jordan plain, irrigated everywhere - this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah - like the garden of the Lord or the land of Egypt, as far as Zoar. So Lot chose all the Jordan plain for himself and moved off eastwards. Thus they parted company: Abram settled in the land of Canaan; Lot settled among the towns of the plain, pitching his tents on the outskirts of Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were vicious men, great sinners against the Lord.

The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted company with him, “Look all round where you are towards the north and the south, towards the east and the west. All the land within sight I will give to you and your descendants for ever. I will make your descendants like the dust on the ground: when men succeed in counted the specks of dust on the ground, then they will be able to count your descendants! Come, travel through the length and breadth of the land, for I mean to give it to you.”

So Abram went with his tents to settle at the Oak of Mamre, at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.
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Matthew 7:26, 12-14

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls in front of pigs, or they may trample them and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.

“So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.

“Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
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Recently, I wrote a summary of an article on my blog on why the book “The Purpose-Driven Life” is un-Catholic. (The original article is here.)

In one part of the article, it says that the author Rick Warren assures his readers that it is very easy to enter into eternal life. All one has to do is to sincerely pray, “Jesus, I believe you and I receive you.” But Jesus makes it clear, in today’s gospel reading, that the way that leads to life is hard, and only a few find it. Could Jesus be wrong about salvation and Rick Warren be right instead?

Of course not. But it is true that no small number of our Christian brethren believe this. I found myself discussing this, and other matters, with a Christian brother on my blog. One of the other things we discussed was the magisterium. Today, I found myself referring several times to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) when I was asked the questions: Do you believe that a Protestant can be saved?

What does the Church really teach about this? We know quite well what the Church teaches about the salvation of non-Christians, because this has been told to us many times, but when it comes to our Christian brethren, what does the Church really teach? Are they saved, despite not being in communion with the Church?

As I found out today, the CCC is remarkably compassionate on the subject of our relationship with our Christian brethren. The word ‘Protestant’ doesn’t even seem to appear in there. What the Church does teach is that faith in Jesus Christ and the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for our own salvation, but what is necessary is also that he who has faith endures it to the end. (CCC #161).

In other words, our Christian brethren are saved on the same conditions as Catholics - that we have faith in Jesus Christ, and we endure to the end. That enduring to the end is the hard road that leads to life. The Church also teaches that Catholics who do not persevere in charity, even though they are incorporated into the Church, are not saved.

In the first reading, we see that Lot and Abraham have a disagreement. As such, they part ways. This is not unlike the Church and our non-Catholic Christian brethren. They too have had disagreements with the Church, and so have parted ways. The Church teaches that divisions are caused by sin, whereas virtue gives rise to harmony and unity.

The Church teaches us that those who are baptized but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter, are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Church. Christians who are born into such non-Catholic Christian communities commit no sin of separation from the Church. If these Christians are brought up in the faith of Christ, the Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers.

It is through dialogue, collaboration, fraternal knowledge of each other, and ecumenical formation of the faithful especially of priests, together with prayer in common and a conversion of heart that unity under one Shepherd can be achieved. It is the Church’s mission that stimulates efforts towards Christian unity.

One thing that must be noted is that for true ecumenism to take place, there must be no compromise on truth. Jesus is the truth, and if we compromise on truth, we are giving what is holy to the dogs.
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Prayer:
Dear Jesus, we pray for the unity of all who believe in you and the One who sent you for our salvation, and we pray that all who hold this faith may endure to the end. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: The magisterium which defends the truth.

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