• Father David M. Knight

Immersed in Christ: February 13, 2020

Father David's Reflection for Thursday of Week Five (Ordinary Time)

Lord, remember us, for the love you bear your people.

(Responsorial: Psalm 106)

1 Kings 11:4-13: Solomon was wise. But wisdom doesn’t do us any good if we don’t live by what we know. Solomon’s downfall was his attraction to foreign women. God had told the Israelites not to enter into marriage with Gentiles, those who worshiped other gods, “for they will surely incline your heart to follow their gods.” Solomon ignored the warning and, sure enough, when he was old, “his wives turned away his heart to other gods; and his heart was not entirely with the LORD his God.” For this God took away the kingdom; not from him, but from his son, all but one tribe, which he left because of his promise to David.

This naturally raises the question of inter-marriage between Christians and non-Christians, or between Catholics and Protestants. On the books, Church law forbids marriage between a Catholic and any non-Catholic (Canons 1086, 1124). But the bishop can, and normally does, give a dispensation from the law. As a result, what we call “mixed marriages” are so commonplace in the United States that we just take them for granted. Is this good?

Custom should not blind us to the obvious. If two people do not share fully the same faith, it is impossible for them to share themselves with each other on the deepest level of their being. They are not united in accepting all that is most deep and important in life. That is still true, even if a particular couple may give communal expression to those elements of the faith that they do hold in common more openly and completely than many married couples who are both Catholic. Any minister who has dealt with spouses in spiritual direction or on retreats can testify to the pain a fervent believer feels when a spouse cannot share the same relationship and experience of God, no matter how deep the other’s own relationship is. This is also true, of course, when two Catholics are just not on the same level of faith, hope and love.

If neither spouse is into religion deeply enough to feel this, then the problem does not exist. But much greater problems do.

The answer is not for the bishops to stop granting dispensations. Top-down rigorism is not a pastoral solution.

In Mark 7:24-30 we see how Jesus handled a woman of another faith.

First, he seemed to be insulting: When

she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter, he said, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

But she was not insulted. Jesus led her to agree, with no feeling of inferiority, that the Jews were God’s Chosen People,: “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then Jesus rewarded this act of faith by healing her child. He didn’t push her to become a Jew. It wasn’t her time or his. Her good will was enough.

When people respect the Catholic faith but are not moved to join the Church, Catholics respect them. Our job is to love, to open doors, not build barriers. We let them share as much of our faith as they desire, participate as much as possible in our worship and prayer, and leave conversion to God.

Initiative: Have you experienced faith in non-Catholics? Do you look for it?

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