Monday, January 18, 2016

How we are all Islamic

In the last few years beating up on Islam has become all too common. As Catholics we should be particularly sensitive, given the fact that we were in the 19th century victims of the same prejudices.

In the first reading today we hear Samuel's condemnation of Saul for allowing his men to loot the conquered people. Saul's defense is that the were going of use the animals for sacrifice to God—a great rationalization.

Samuel does not say sacrifice is bad or unnessary simply that obedience is more important.

Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams.

The English word obedience comes from two Latin words ob- toward, and audire- to hear. The image is one of turning your ear toward someone to listen closely. The someone of course is God. We are called to live our lives constantly listening to God.

The second word from Samuel is where an Arabic lesson is in order. When a Christian prays in Arabic the word for God is Allah. Is is not the name of some Moslem God. And I would hope we can all agree that God is the greatest. (الله اكبر) Most important for today's reading, the word for submission is Islam(الاسلام). More specifically Isalm is submission to the will of God.

Samuel today is reminding us that a life of faith is a two step process. First we listen then we submit to the will of God.

Our debate is not around the questions of who is God, what should we call God, is God great, or should we seek always to submit and do the will of God. On all of those questions we agree. To that degree we are all islamic, believers in submission to God's will.

The point of divergence is on one question: How can we know the will of God?

For us as Catholics, God's public revelation (addressed to all people of all times) closed with the Old and New Testament, and the custodians of the proper interpretation of that revelation is the magisterium of the Church.

Does God speak to the individual? Of course.

But before I tell myself that any action is God's will I must ask does it conform to the gospel, and the two millennia of Church teaching? The question is never can I find a Bible verse to justify it? We can always do that.

God gave us the magisterium of the Church to protect her from radical misinterpretation of his word. Has it always worked perfectly? No. But we trust that when we stray the Holy Spirit is there to put us back on course.

True believers in Islam have the right idea, search for and submit to the will of God. Unfortunately, there are a few truly evil voices claiming to know God's will and leading people astray.

Perhaps our prayer should be that every one of our Islamic brothers and sister be given the wisdom to properly discern the will of God. May we all pray that each of us of every faith heed the words of Samuel.