Whoever acknowledges
 me before others...

Readings: Jer. 20.10-13; Ps. 19; Rom. 5.12-15; Mt. 10.26-33

Today's gospel says, "Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father." (Mt. 10.33) Who is the God whom you acknowledge before others? With what words do you describe God?

We often hear the clich: "We all believe in and pray to the same God,." If you hear those words, I hope you do the following: shake your head vehemently in disagreement, raise your hands high, and shout in incredible disbelief: "That phrase is complete nonsense." And add, "Obviously, you don't know much about the gods of other people, and you don't appreciate the uniqueness and depth of your own God." Why should we bring people to Christianity, and other Christians to Catholicism, if all gods and religions are the same? Why have missionaries traveled to distant lands to raise people beyond paganism, if all gods and religions are the same? Why have martyrs sacrificed their lives from the first century to the twentieth century, which by the way has seen more Christian martyrs than all previous centuries, if all gods and religions are the same?

How do you describe God?

Is your God monotheistic or polytheistic; i. e., do you believe in one God or many gods?

  • Christianity is a monotheistic religion. Hinduism has 33 million gods. The Greek and Roman religions had multiple gods. Buddha was an atheist, and one hundred years after his death, his disciples declared that Buddha was God.

Is your God Trinitarian, i.e., three persons in one God; or simply one person?

  • Jews, Christians, and Moslems are the world's three major monotheistic religions. Only Christians, however, believe in a Trinity. Moslems mock us, belittle us, and intend to disparage us by calling us Christians, "Trinitarians."

Does God create people so that each individual can be saved, or has God already determined who will enjoy salvation, and who will suffer condemnation?

  • The former Catholic priest John Knox left the Church, founded Presbyterianism, and taught predestination. He and other Scriptural literalists believe that only 144,000 people will be saved; and that God already knows who they are, and individuals cannot affect the outcome.

Human suffering is universal. All the major world religions attempt to make sense of suffering, either by facing it and integrating it, or fleeing from it in favor of transitory comforts, or simply denying the reality of suffering.

  • Buddhism teaches that the more you deny your desires, the more free you become. Ultimately, someone needs to eradicate even the desire to have desires. It is no accident that the outward-looking vision of Christianity has inspired the West to become productive, while the inward-looking vision of Buddhism has inspired the East to withdraw from the world.

Heaven, what will the afterlife be like: a wonderful community or prayer, praise, and conversation with God and other loved ones; or a vague joyless existence which lasts forever and ever?

  • Ask your Jewish friends about their expectations of heaven; they expect heaven will be joyless and amorphous. Meanwhile, every strong believing, good living Christian or Catholic looks forward to "going to a better place?"

Does your God esteem the virtues of forgiveness, and the promotion and preservation of life?

  • Jesus is the exemplar of forgiveness. He instructs his followers: "forgive seventy times seven times. The Church teaches us, "hate the sin, but not the sinner." Meanwhile, the Koran has neither the concept of nor any word for forgiveness. Forgiveness is not part of Islam.
     
  • Life? Our God creates life, and wants us to be pro-life. One of this year's two presidential candidates votes 100% pro-abortion. Planned Parenthood reveres him as its poster person. This candidate is so opposed to life that he is one of less than a handful of US Senators who voted this way: after an abortion has failed, and the child has survived, this candidate has voted to kill the living child. In this most fundamental of issues, this presidential candidate's god is not the God of most Christians, and all Catholics.

Dear friends, please don't fall victim to political correctness. Please don't be afraid to stand up and speak up for your faith, even though "it might offend someone." Instead, stand up for truth, and stamp out nonsense. Nonsense means "no sense." Truth is a transcendental value. When you find truth, you find unity, goodness, and depth of being. I ask you, "Do you want to live life at a profound level, or a superficial level? Do you want to seek the one truth that describes God, or simply welcome a variety of perspectives, based on the wishy-washy principle that "everyone has a right to his/her own opinion." Christians, Catholics, challenge the purveyors of error who offer you cotton-candy Christianity when they say in their ignorance, "We all believe in and pray to the same God."

The fact is that world religions and many Christian denominations differ vastly. I hope the next time that you hear somebody say, "We all believe in and pray to the same God, " that you will shake your head vehemently in disagreement, raise your hands high, and shout in incredible disbelief, "That phrase is complete nonsense." And please add, "Obviously, you don't know much about the gods of other people, and you don't appreciate the uniqueness and depth of your own Catholic faith, which is the one true faith, whose fullness resides in the Catholic Church, which is one true Church which Jesus founded.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley