The ONLY Way?
Fr. Joseph K. Horn
24 April 2005
St Thomas More Parish
“The biggest danger to modern society is relativism, the belief that there are no absolute truths.” -- Pope Benedict XVI
(1) THAT way is north (point), and THAT way is west. Do you know the way to San Jose? Point to it. (they point) Good! Point towards the way to Los Angeles. Good! Point towards the way to the North Pole. Good! Now (are you ready?) point towards the way to heaven (they point upwards). Wrong! Hold that thought...
(2) If you saw a friend of yours walking into a building, but you could see that your friend was unaware that the building was on fire, would you just stand there quietly and let your friend walk into the building? Of course not; you’d shout, “Hey! Don’t go in there! It’s on fire!” That’s what you’d do if they were really your friend. Matter of fact, if a bystander saw you stand there quietly and let your friend enter the burning building, the bystander would have every right to say, “ You call yourself a friend, but you’re no friend at all!” Hold that thought...
(3) Some questions have only one right answer. For example, 1+2=x has only one right answer: x=3. If somebody says that 1+2 is anything other than 3, they’d be wrong. On the other hand, some questions have more than one right answer. For example, x2=4 has two right answers, namely +2 and -2.
Ok, now put those three thoughts together...
What kind of question is this: “What is the way to heaven?” Is that a question that has only one right answer, or multiple right answers? Is there only ONE way to go to God, or MANY ways? Is salvation a 1+2=x kind of question, or an x2=4 kind of question?
If you are an American, the answer will probably surprise you. If you have swallowed the culture bait of relativism, the answer will probably even offend you. But it’s not my duty to please people or say things you want to hear or say things you agree with. It’s my duty to teach the truth. Here goes.
Thomas said to Jesus, “We don’t even know where you’re going; how can we know the way? Where are you going, and what is the way?”
Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”
The rich young man asked Jesus, “What must I do to gain eternal life?”
Everybody wanted to know (and still wants to know) what is the way, what is the truth, and what is eternal life. Jesus answered these questions very clearly.
Jesus said, “I AM THE WAY, the truth, and the life. NO ONE comes to the Father EXCEPT THROUGH ME.”
Notice that he did NOT say, “I am ONE of the ways” or “Let me tell you about my favorite way” or “Let me show you the self-help section of my bookstore where you can buy thousands of books that describe the billion steps involved in uncountable numbers of ways.” No, he said “I AM THE WAY.” People take many different paths looking for God, but I am the only one that leads to God. The way is not a method; it’s not a prayer; it’s not a bunch of laws. The way is a person: Jesus Christ. And to make it abundantly clear, in case anybody missed it, Jesus then said, “NO ONE comes to the Father EXCEPT THROUGH ME.”
“BUT... What about other religions?” you say. “We Americans value religious freedom in our country. Don’t we hold that all religions are just different paths to the same God? After all, didn’t Rudy Guilliani say that he likes to visit an Islamic mosque on Friday and a Jewish synagogue on Saturday and a Christian Church on Sunday? Then he commented, ’All three religions worship the same God, just in different ways.’ Isn’t that true? After all, aren’t there good people who are a part of those religions or who were brought up in those religions? What about them? Is Christianity the only religion that leads to God?”
That takes us back to square one: What kind of question is this, “What is the way to heaven? What is the way to God?” Is it a question that has only one answer (namely, Christianity, which follows Jesus who is The Way), or many answers (namely, whatever religion suits your fancy)?
Do we take Jesus seriously? Or do we prefer what our culture teaches instead of what Jesus teaches? Jesus said “I am THE way, and NO ONE comes to the Father EXCEPT THROUGH ME.”
Those who claim that all religions are valid and true have not really looked closely at them. When we look closer, we find that all different religions contradict each other in many important ways that cannot be logically reconciled. Logic clearly dictates that when several statements are mutually exclusive, at most one is true and all the others are false. I know that this is utterly repulsive to those of you who have swallowed the culture bait of relativism, but bear with me and I’ll prove my case.
For example, Buddhism teaches that the ultimate goal is Nirvana where all pain and suffering exist no more. And the way to reach this Nirvana is by following the 8-Fold Path to Enlightenment, and then you reach that place of total nothingness. Nothingness is the goal of Buddhism! I guess their philosophy is 1+2=0. Anyway, nothingness is NOT God, and the way that they teach is not Jesus. They are on the wrong path to the wrong destination. Does this mean that we should persecute Buddhists or start an Inquisition or abolish religious freedom? Of course not! The Catechism makes that clear. In fact, we should LOVE them... love them enough to do our best to convert them from their erroneous way to the true way, the living way, Jesus Christ.
In Hinduism, the ultimate goal is being reunited with Brahma, the all-pervading force of the universe. And the way to achieve this union with Brahma, is through reincarnation. Depending on how you live your life determines whether you move up or down; it’s a kind of positive/negative duality, sorta like x2=4. That’s not Jesus. That’s a false way to a false God.
In Islam, heaven is a paradise of wine, women, and song. And the way to achieve this blissful paradise is, ironically, to abstain from these things in this world. In addition, a Muslim must follow the way of the Five Pillars of Islam to achieve paradise. They’ll never get to heaven on that path, because it’s the wrong way. It’s not Jesus, who is THE way.
And, of course, Judaism denies that Jesus Christ is Lord, and it teaches that it is through the following of the Law that one obtains eternal life. St Paul was crystal clear that this is the wrong way, leading to the wrong destination.
So you see, these religions are completely contradictory to Christianity. It does not mean we are any better, or that we should look down on people who follow such religions. That in itself is contradictory to the Christian life. We can learn many useful things from any religion or philosophy. But, we must also recognize that (1) there are real and serious contradictions that cannot be reconciled, (2) only Christianity follows THE WAY who is Jesus, and (3) all who reject Jesus will be lost, since “NO ONE comes to the Father except through me.”
So, (are you ready?) can you point towards the way to heaven? (they point to the crucifix) Ah, that’s much better! But it’s still wrong! That’s only an artistic representation of Jesus. Do crucifixes save us? No. Point towards THE WAY to heaven! (they point to the tabernacle) Good!
Now, those of you who have never swallowed the culture bait of relativism are probably thinking to yourselves, “Hey, Father Joe, I already know all this.”
NO YOU DON’T. You don’t! And I can prove it. You have friends who are not Christians, right? Friends with whom you have never talked about Jesus, friends who you have never invited to go to Mass with you. You consider yourself their friend, yet you are perfectly content to let them walk straight into the fires of hell without giving them so much as a friendly warning! Either you are not really their friend, or you don’t really know what Jesus meant when he said, “I am THE way, and the truth, and the life. NO ONE comes to the Father except through me. NO ONE.” If you are really their friend, tell them, for heaven’s sake!