February 16, 2018

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Building bridges is goal of interreligious relationships, dialogue

Fr. Rick GintherPeople can babble on, can’t they? For the most part, we tune out such folks, preferring the solace of the noise in our brains—our own babble.

The Book of Genesis gave us this English word “babble.” Originally, it meant “unintelligible speech,” not prolonged prattle.

In the story (Gen 11:1-9), people chose to try to be like God, not unlike the temptation the serpent served up to Eve and Adam. They constructed a city with a tower. It was to touch the very realm of God.

The sacred author notes that God saw this and chose to disperse the people by confusing their language. God’s purpose was to end this god-attaining behavior which the human technology of the time encouraged.

On the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 1), the power of the separation of languages is diminished by the Holy Spirit. People hear and understand in their own languages the truth of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Though the divide of language endured, the bridge of truth spanned that chasm.

Chasms, ravines, gullies, vast stretches of wasteland divide. Bridges, roads and vehicles of human making span these divides.

But topography aside, what of the spaces that divide which humans create? What of the religious and theological spaces which divide?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states clearly in its opening paragraphs that all humans seek God. This is innate to us.

The catechism also notes that sin divides us from God, self and others. It goes on to invite us to reconcile, to heal, “to span the gulf” created by sin and division.

Our world has many religions, and each seeks the truth. Most provide a way to encounter God as their adherents understand God. Most provide rituals, practices and sacred writings to help in their pursuit of the divine—living toward a wholeness which reflects the divine.

We Catholics believe very clearly that, in Jesus Christ, our God revealed his very self completely, and showed us the way to live. The Gospel underpins all we are as a Church. That is a core truth.

The Church states very clearly that indifferentism—the idea that all religions are the same—is not valid and should be avoided.

But this does not, and cannot, lead to an exclusivity of “we have the truth and others do not.” As the documents of the Second Vatican Council insist, other Christians and other religions have some share of the truth and the seed of salvation brought to us in Christ.

To build bridges across the divides our religions seemingly impose: that is a goal of interreligious relationships and dialogue.

The Center for Interfaith Cooperation (CIC) in the Indianapolis metropolitan area is such a bridge builder.

Like other such organizations—in Louisville “The Center for Interfaith Relations”; in Cincinnati “Interfaith Cincy” and Interfaith Association of Central Ohio, or IACO—the CIC works to share a vision: “Hoosiers of many faiths, in community, pursuing peace through interfaith understanding and cooperation.”

CIC’s mission is “to strengthen community in Central Indiana and beyond by: 1) supporting existing connections between and among faith communities; 2) fostering additional interfaith opportunities through social, cultural and educational interactions; 3) connecting communities through volunteer service and civic engagement.”

Check out this bridge builder at www.centerforinterfaithcooperation.org. Note how the Spirit of Pentecost is yet at work in our world, reaching beyond the “babble” of misunderstanding—to mutual understanding leading to openness, justice and peace.

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism. He is also pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis.)

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