Monday, July 14, 2014

Missing the point about religion.

There are, to be sure, many out there who are averse towards organized religion.  They often say that religion has done much more harm than good to the human race, making bigots out of the followers of doctrine and robots when dealing with issues of morals and social justice. 

In an article that he wrote for his syndicated weekly work back in the late 90s, Fr Ronald Rolheiser attempted to address this topic about what religion is all about, and started by relating a Jewish parable, where a Rabbi asked his disciples a rather strange question.  He asked “How much light is enough light in the world?”

True to form, there were two different answers from his disciples.  The first said that there is sufficient light when one can tell the difference between an oak tree and a sycamore tree.  The second said that there is enough light when one can tell a sheep from a goat.  Both of them failed to get the approving nod from their master.   Finally, to their relief, the master answered his own question and said, “There is enough light in the world when one looks at the face of another and sees in that face, a brother or a sister”.

This wonderful parable is really a roundabout way to explain the predicament that faces all religions in the world, yes, even Christianity.  It seems that the human heart (and mind) has a certain predilection towards separation – where one sees the need to separate what one sees and categorizes what lies before him.  When one is bent solely on being doctrinally and dogmatically correct when one thinks of religion or practices one’s religion, that would be akin to the answer the first disciple gave – where the light is sufficient when one doesn’t mix up the trees.  To those for whom being right is the most important thing in the world, this kind of light, though insufficient, is enough for them.

Then there are those who are bent on being morally right in life, and where religious practices and beliefs keep them steady on the right path of sanctity and holiness.  These are perhaps seen in the kind of disciples who say that there is enough light when one is able to discern between a sheep from a goat.  Again, the importance may be a ‘difference’, but a subtler one.  They are not altogether wrong, as one who is able to see how the moral teachings of any religion though hard should be followed, leans on such teachings for feelings of security and confidence. 

What is starkly missing from the heart of both of these disciples would be clear when one begins to look at things from the point of mercy, compassion and charity.  They are somewhat obviously missing from the two first answers.  Perhaps this is where Christianity needs to always remember to take its point of departure, as Christ did say that he was the light of the world, something that we are reminded clearly and visually at each Easter vigil celebration of Light.

That Christ was full of compassion and charity is an undisputed statement.  When we call ourselves disciples of Christ or Christians, what has to be at the heart of our faith is to imitate as much of this as possible in the living out of our religion.  While correct doctrine guides the understanding of correct moral and socially just issues, religion cannot just stop there.  If it does, it easily makes one very (falsely) self satisfied and think that one’s spiritual quest is over.  It is not. 

At the heart of religion has to be the ability to see in every human being the connection that one has with the other.  When this is missing, it becomes far too easy to add to the millions who have been blamed for sullying religion to give cause to the statement that it has “done much more harm than good to the human race”.  Perhaps this begs the question – “why is it so much of a challenge to live in this way”?  I do not want to be overly simplistic in offering a simple answer, but I do sincerely believe that the answer lies in the fact that we are too protective of our very selves.

It becomes difficult to see in another a brother or sister when we put ourselves in a judgmental position where we often think that our views, our ways of doing things, and our opinions are of a higher quality than the other.  It becomes a challenge to act with mercy and charity when the other person I am dealing with is seen more as competition rather than companion.  It also becomes far more difficult to become generous with my assets and belongings when I view the other and his needs as something that is going to make my own possessions diminished in any way. 

When catechesis does not address this important issue of charity, compassion and mercy in a clear and unadorned way, religion will always have a tendency to remain at the first two levels.  But woe to the catechists or priest who dares to make this clear from day one of religious instruction of any kind.  He or she will be bound to face the fact that some listeners will just walk away.  Real religion casts light on the self, and some shadows will be far too dark for some to see, accept and make less obvious when the light of Christ falls on them. 


  1. Haha frLuke the parable sets me in motion. It took me time to figure out where am i and where i am / should be heading.

    Christianity, for me, is more than a religion. It is a relationship with Christ, with God the Creator. And yes, until i find that relationship, and acknowledge His creation, i will not be able to see "the face of another and sees in that face, a brother or a sister”.


  2. Thank You for your another inspired reflection for me to ponder in my heart. O Lord, I pray that You send your Spirit upon us. Spirit of God, take hold of us, that at every moment of our lives, we can feel the tangible presence of God's strength, love and guidance. Let your light illumine us, let your joy fill our hearts, let your peace keep us steadfast, that we may live for you forever. AMEN

  3. ‘He asked “How much light is enough light in the world?”...........’ - made me recall one of my favourite Bible verses.

    Neither Prophet Mohammed nor the Buddha, nor Lao Tze - nor for that matter- any other founder of the main religions of the world, had the ‘audacity’ of Christ when he claimed, “ I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ( Jn 8:12)

    If we describe religion to be “ an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods” – then Christianity, like the rest, could be classified as such. However, we know that the Catholic faith is much more than that because of the person of Jesus Christ. His claim as the great I Am (...the light) ‘blows one’s mind away’ ( to borrow a favourite FB expression !) and one is left with either to reject and walk away or to accept, and in awe, to bow down and worship. To do the latter, is to become a follower.

    He said He is THE light of the world, .........there is no other and no need for any other.....His light will be more than sufficient for us - not to have to walk in darkness..........the darkness of unbelief, of sin. To follow means to allow Him to lead and so - in all things big and small- that we do or say or have our being – should reflect Him and His teachings..........if we really mean what we say – that we are his disciples. We are not just following a set of organized rules, beliefs and or doctrine but a person........we are in a relationship- a covenantal relationship - as we are so often being reminded!
    That is how marvellously unique the Catholic Faith is.

    God bless you, Fr


  4. Hallo Fr. Luke,

    How are you getting on? Hope you are feeling much better these days. What I am about to write here, I like to share it with you and all your readers too.

    FR.LUKE:-"While correct doctrine guides the understanding of moral and socially just issues, religion cannot just stop here."

    ARCHBISHOP WILLIAM GOH:-"I am not at liberty to change the truth revealed in sacred scripture. My primary responsibility is to instruct the Faithful in accordance with the teachings of the Universal Church. But we have a duty to be the voice of the weak and voiceless of society."

    {1co1:21} If it was God's wisdom that human wisdom should not know God, it was because God wanted to save those who have faith through the foolishness of the message that we preach.

    Christians and non-believers around the world celebrate Christmas, do they not? This is the highlight and the TRUTH of our Catholic faith, with regards to the Holy Family which calls for a worldwide celebration.

    Through the birth of Baby Jesus, I believe this is God's way of showing the world, as to how and what a family consists of. Which is, the rightful way of living out a family life, in this world. In order not to jeopardize the whole nature of our human race.

    ARCHBISHOP WILLIAM GOH, who dutifully and Faithfully imparted this teaching, was horribly persecuted, when he said, "A family consists of a father, a mother and their children." Added to this greater and painful embarrassment was that, these are people, who even claimed themselves as Catholics, expressing their hurts, anger and disappointment. What a shocking scenario.

    HOLY FAMILY:-Jesus, His mother Mary and her husband, Joseph.

    Isn't it, the man of this world, who is head of the family, supposed to protect but not to abuse his wife and children, who are vulnerable?

    NOTE:-" FORBIDDEN SEXUAL PRACTICES."(Taken from the Book of Leviticus)

    {EZ 33:32} To them you are nothing more than an entertainer, singing love songs or playing a harp. They listen to all your words and don't obey a single one of them.

    {LV 18:22,29} No man is to have sexual relations with another man; God hates that. You know that whoever does any of these disgusting things will no longer be considered one of God's people.

    {JR 42:6} Whether it pleases us or not, we will obey our God.

    {RO 10:16} But not all have accepted the Good News. Isaiah himself said, "Lord who believed our message?"

    {RO 10:21} He says, "All day long I held out my hands to welcome a disobedient and rebellious people."

    {2 TM 4:1-2} Before God and before Christ Jesus, I put this to you, in the name of his appearing and of his kingdom, proclaim the message and welcome or unwelcome insist on it.

    {JN 15:16} It was not you who chose me, says the Lord but I chose you.

    {MT 10:16} "Listen! I am sending you out like sheep to a pack of wolves."

    {JN 15:18} "If the world hates you just remember that it has hated me first."

    JESUS warned:-"HEAR THE WORD OF THE LORD" {IS 1:10}

    {IS 1:14,16} Your New Moons and your pilgrimages I hate with all my soul. They lie heavy on me. I am tired of bearing them. Take your wrong-doing out of my sight.

    {MT 10:36} Your worst enemies will be members of your own family.

    JESUS says:-{JN 14:6} I AM, The WAY, The TRUTH and The LIFE.

    {PS 118:43} "Do not take the TRUTH from my mouth."

    {IS 7:9} "But if you do not stand by me, you will not stand at all."

    WITH MAN:- One can always get away scot-free by being high and mighty, argumentative, arrogance, unfaithfulness...etc...etc. And it has always been all about me and myself and no one else. But ...

    WITH GOD:- Comes an extremely costly price tag. The Dire Consequences. HIDDEN FROM MAN.

    {ACTS 2:14} Stand up! Proclaim! (2014)

    All-Glory-Honour & Praise.
    To our One and Only TRUE GOD.
    Our Lord Jesus Christ...Amen. Alleluia!

    God Bless you, Fr.

    Secret. I.H.M.