By Matthew D. Ruhl, SJ
Wednesday/November 1, 2017/Belize City, Belize
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. And what is a saint? A saint is a man or woman who labors in hope. Far from viewing the world through rose-colored glasses, far from being a pietistic bore, the wide-eyed saint sees all the evil and all the destruction the world has to offer, but believes, despite all the ugliness and all the obstacles, that good and beauty shall prevail. Again, a saint is a man or woman who labors in hope. So my friends, labor on!
As I deplaned yesterday afternoon, the feel and smell of Belizean air enveloped me and I knew I was home. How good it felt. A Belize ease crept into my mind and bones and I just felt good, happy to be home. As much as I wanted to stay up and watch Game Six of the World Series, that Belize ease got the best of me. I heard my own bed calling to me during the fourth inning. Having awakened at 2:30 a.m. that morning to catch a 5:30 a.m. flight, I was only too eager to heed that call.
This morning I visited the classrooms. Oh my goodness. These children. How I love them. Had I nothing to do in Belize but serve these children, it would be enough to warrant my return. I firmly believe I can do nothing better with my life than spend it on these students of ours. How deserving they are of every good thing we can do for them. They are God’s own.
Speaking of our students. Our boys’ basketball team has won the District Championship. They now play for the National Championship on Friday.
Now . . . We continue our review of some of the impulses we find in the Christian culture but not in the Catholic Faith. A thoughtful Catholic would never declare, “Jesus Christ is my personal Lord And Savior.” And why would we Catholics never say that? For three reasons. First of all, it is unspeakably arrogant. There are roughly 4,000 years of Salvation History, a history that includes the Patriarchs, Moses, Joshua, Judges, Kings, Queens, Prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles. To say “Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior” is to intimate that all of that happened for your own personal salvation. Sorry. I don’t think so.
Second of all, it is a gross error to say that. Nowhere in the Bible, nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus hope to save a bunch of individuals. The entire Bible is about how God desires to save the community of believers. Never does Jesus save an individual and then say, “OK, whew, I got you saved. Now let me move on to the next individual.” Even when Jesus does heal individuals, it is foremost a sign that salvation has come to the entire world, it is a sign that Jesus is God and that the Kingdom of God has broken into our lives, our history.
Third, it is very bad theology. The great commandment requires us to “love our neighbor as ourself.” To say “Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior” is tantamount to saying, “I got mine; now you get yours.” What about one’s mother? Father? Friends? Spouse? When you say “Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior,” you have left them out. You are saying as long as I have Jesus, nobody else really matters. It is a very selfish declaration. There should be greater concern for the other, the neighbor. So what do Catholics say?
The first order of Catholic business is to always make sure our neighbor is not in some physical, spiritual, or emotional need. When a person’s needs have been attended to, if there were needs, and if the person is open to hearing about Jesus, the second order of business for the Catholic is not to pietistically declare, “Jesus Christ is my personal Lord and Savior,” but “Jesus Christ came to save all of humankind, isn’t that great news?!”