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The Pope’s Appeal for Inter-Religious Unity and Love

In the light of the debates now raging among Christians regarding how to respond to people of other faiths Pope Francis gives us here a short video in which he expresses his heart and personal hope.

Many evangelicals will see this video and conclude something like the following: “Pope Francis believes all people are brothers and sisters and thus he believes all will be saved by God regardless of their life and faith. Therefore, it makes no real difference whether or not the church does evangelization and mission since ALL people who are sincere in their faith will be saved in the end.”

Am I right or am I wrong in the way in the way I state this conclusion?

I think I am right. I know this is how I would have heard this message twenty years ago. So, my next question is this: “Does this make me a pluralist (or liberal) who denies John 14:6 or sees no urgency for sharing the good news and making disciples of Jesus?”

The problem lies in the meaning of all the words and ideas presented here by my comments. The Catholic

The Passing of My Friend Joseph F. Girzone

224465_215055838545526_6641788_nSeveral years ago I shared the story of how I met Fr. Joseph F. Girzone (1930-2015). I had read Joe’s wonderful book, Jesus: A New Understanding of God’s Son (New York: Doubleday, 2009). I simply loved it. Frankly, it changed my life in many profound ways. I wrote my first ever review on Amazon and as a result someone showed it to Joe who then reached out to get to know me. Since this is the kind of thing I would do, and it is rarely done to me, I had an immediate desire to know this lovely man. Well, we began to chat on the phone and by email. The man who wrote the huge best-selling novel, Joshua (1983), was a friend. What a pleasant and divinely-orchestrated surprise. When I first encountered Joshua in the days of its immense popularity in the early 1980s I was so profoundly influenced by Puritanism that I considered a novel about Jesus a virtual sacrilege. (So much for a mind that was open!) So getting to know this unusual priest became an

Reflections on Forgiveness and Forgiving (Tom Masters)

Tom ncp portraitReading the text and commentary for the Focolare Movement’s “Word of Life” for May, 2015, brought to my mind an experience from two years ago when I was in Rome to meet with the editorial staff of the publishing house Città Nuova.  On March 13, the very day that the meeting began, it happened that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who took the name Francis, was elected pope.  The following Sunday he appeared in St. Peter’s Square for the customary noontime Angelus address. He offered a reflection on Jn 8:1-11, the story of Jesus’s response to the woman caught in adultery.  He illustrated the meaning and quality of divine mercy with a personal anecdote:

Feeling mercy. . . changes everything. . . . We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient…. Let us remember the Prophet Isaiah who says that even if our sins were scarlet, God’s love would make them white as snow. This mercy is beautiful!

I remember, when I had only just become a bishop in the

Aaron Niequist: The Practice – Learning the Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Aaron Niequist began an experimental community at Willow Creek early last year (2014).

The Practice: Learning the Unforced Rhythms of Grace. Aaron aims to be a discipleship-focused, formation oriented, practice-based tribe asks two simple questions:

(1) What is the Life that Christ invites us into? and (2)

“What are the practices,” he asks, “that we can do together, and on our own, to embrace this Eternal Life now?”

Said simply: What is God doing and how can we join Him?

As Aaron and I have gotten to know each other as good friends the last two years I have watched these developments with increased joy and interest. Today I would like to share some exciting video material with you as my friends. This material is available here for only one week so please watch it now.

On a Sunday night in May, Father Michael Sparough, SJ, guided The Practice community through the historic Christian practice of The Examen. The night was powerful and so unexplainably holy that we wanted to invite more people into the experience. So we’ve turned the live recording of Fr Michael into a full New Liturgy—fleshing it out with an evocative musical score and three original songs. We hope it helps you connect with God in a deep and daily way.

Here is the promo for examen:

Check out the full examen liturgy project here.

Remember, you can only see this for one week so take advantage of it now and

A Liberal Confession that Conservatives Can Affirm

Lescalleet (Dave)Today’s Guest Blogger: Dr. David Lescalleet

There was an interesting recent editorial on dailybeast.com entitled:  Why I’m coming out as a Christian.  Columnist Ana Marie Cox who has written for a number of periodicals and has quite the following on twitter (1.3 million and counting) wrote the article.  I heard about it today when Ms. Cox appeared on the cable morning show Morning Joe on MSNBC and talked about the reasons she chose to ‘come out’ of the religious closet.  A week ago the news cycle had picked up on a comment made by Governor Scott Walker who was questioning President Obama’s Christian faith.  Ms. Cox, a liberal commentator and obvious supporter of President Obama, opined if the President wasn’t a Christian than what did that make her?  In her television interview this morning she did a decent enough job in trying to explain her own Christianity (enough for me to hunt her article down anyway and read it for myself), and what I found was a testimonial mixture of both good and bad.  I don’t mean

A Special Season in the Desert – A Journey into Deeper Ecumenism (3)

UnknownWhat God gave to me in the late 1990s, and into the early years of this present century, was a settled assurance that he would go with me into a desert. There I would feel abandoned at times but he would always be with me. In the desert he would provide for me, heal me, teach me and prepare me for a very different future. Though I did not know what that future would look like precisely what was revealed to me was that when he placed me in my new role I would have power and true freedom to exalt him openly. I had no idea what this meant in my wildest dreams. I did know, beyond any doubt in my soul, that this new mission was “from the Lord” and that every blessing would be his alone. One year I preached twice all year, at least in Sunday services. When my wife asked me this question, about how many times I had preached in a certain year, I was stunned to answer her since I

Faith Energized By Love

UnknownAs I have been reading and writing on love for more than thirteen months now I am awestruck by so much that is transforming my own  life.

Here is but one example. A Pauline text that has deeply moved me can be read in Galatians 5:1-6:

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you.  Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law.  You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.  For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love

Pope Francis: The Great Reformer?

Over recent days I have been reading Austen Ivereigh’s new biography, The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2014). This is a magnificent book. It is clearly the best biography we have of this man, at least so far. The work is very engaging and looks carefully at the circumstances and influences that shaped Jorge Bergoglio’s life journey. It highlights the simple truth that he has an unfailing faith in the love and mercy of Jesus Christ above everything else.

Ivereigh tells the story of a Jesuit priest who is “normal” in every way and, at the same time, clearly rooted in God’s love for all people, not just for ideas and leadership. What Ivereigh does here is depict Bergoglio as an extraordinary figure in the “normal” everyday way in which he lives a life of deep joy. This is a sensitive and adept study and one that should be read by anyone interested in understanding the “radical pope” (“radical” means here that he gets to the root of the matter) who is misunderstood by both left and right

God Loves Me in My Muscular Dystrophy: A Guest Blog

526786_423216014368093_1079195861_nGod wants to show us his love for us in the circumstances he providentially arranges for our lives to be lived in. When all is right and rosy in our lives, it is quite easy and natural to arrive at this conclusion. God has blessed me; he must love me. Yet, as all of us who live in this world know, life is not always lived in the Big Rock Candy Mountains. We have troubles and they are never in short supply. If pleasure and ease are the barometers of goodness, it is far from evident in our natural sight that a good and benevolent God rules the universe when there is so much pain and suffering in it for the creatures he has made. By faith, however, we are shown the sufferings of One Man as the very content of God’s love for us. This is Jesus Christ, who through his suffering and resurrection offers to unite us to the life of God. In and with our Lord Jesus Christ, then, God demonstrates his mighty love

Cardinal O’Malley: ‘If I were founding a Church, I’d love to have women priests’

Cardinal_OMalley-140x156I was in Boston for three days last weekend working in a number of exciting missional-ecumenical contexts. Boston is best known, in terms of its Christian leadership, for the work of Cardinal Sean O’Malley. I pray for Cardinal O’Malley, a leader who represents Pope Francis and his vision as well as any American leader in the Catholic Church. Let me explain some of what I mean by sharing about my recent experience in Boston.

On Sunday evening (November 16) I met with twelve ecumenical leaders from the city. Included among those at the table were some wonderful folks such as the leader of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the newly appointed dean of the Orthodox Cathedral, the evangelical catalyst for overseeing the joint efforts of ten seminaries in the greater Boston area, a lay leader in the office of ecumenism for Cardinal O’Malley and various religious leaders, both clergy and non-clergy. We were Catholic, Orthodox, charismatic, evangelical, mainline Protestant. We were Asian, white, black and hispanic. We were male and female, young and old. It was quite a

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