- Hear, O Israel, the commandments of life (Bar. 3:9)
I am a Roman Catholic, yes, but not really on my own initiative, but rather on the initiative taken by my parents. For their part, they were Catholics largely because their parents and grandparents were Catholics. I do not know who among my ancestors, not being Catholic, decided later to become so. But whoever might be the first one in our family to become Catholic, I do not think the conversion would have been possible without the initiative of others, perhaps, of the Spanish missionaries who evangelized the Filipinos. In any case, it should be acknowledged that no one has something that one has not received (1 Cor. 4:7). And in the final analysis and every possible return to the past made, it must be admitted that, with regard to revelation and faith, it is always God who takes the initiative and does the choosing. So, ultimately, thanks be to God for his initiative and his choice!
I give thanks to God for his chosen people, Israel, given that the Church I belong to “acknowledges that, according to God’s saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets” (Nostra Aetate 4). God makes use of his chosen people so that we non-Jews too can profess: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
I give thanks to God for sending “his Son, born of born of a woman, born under the law, to ranson those under the law, so that they might receive adoption” (Gal. 4:4). Through his Son, God speaks to us in these last days, corroborating the highest importance of the two commandments on which the whole law and the prophets depend (Mt. 22:40) and confirming that it makes much sense to say that to love one’s neighbor as oneself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. In Jesus, of course, the eternal high priest, the total blending of love and sacrifice is realized.
Thank God for the Muslims as well. The life of submission to one God, living and subsisting in Himself, merciful and all- powerful, that they take pains to live reminds me of the wholehearted commitment that is supposed by the words, “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (cf. Nostra Aetate 3).
No doubt, thanks and credit ought to be given to the Lord God for his initiative and his choice. There should, then, be no room given at all to boasting. The person who is indeed deeply grateful stays humble and does not think of himself to be better or above the others. Far from occasioning boastfulness and feelings of superiority and righteousness, God’s initiative and choice should make me deeply aware that, precisely because of these, God will punish his chosen for crimes they commit, and that “more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more” (Amos 3:2; Lk. 12:48). Warns St. Clement in his letter to the Corinthians: “Dear friends, take care that God’s blessings, which are many, do not become the condemnation of us all; we must live lives worthy of him and in mutual harmony do what is good and acceptable in his sight.”
And, of course, the one who is indeed deeply and humbly grateful does not give thanks or love only in word or speech but in deed or practice and truth (1 Jn. 3:18). She loves God “with the strength of her arms and the sweat of her brow.” Convinced of the primacy of love, which certainly is above the rules, she “leaves God for God.” And if one, in her particular walk of life, tends toward the perfection of love, (cf. LG 39), clinging firmly to the one God and living according to the law of God and in imitation of Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment par excellence of the law and the prophets, is not this what it means to be a saint, to be on the way to the land flowing with milk and honey, the place where life is ever lengthened and where, at the entrance, no one is asked about her religion but only if she has loved the Lord and the least of his brothers and sisters?