One of the contemporary priests whose work I enjoy reading is that of Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household. He has a unique ability of expressing traditional Catholic beliefs in contemporary ways. This link is to his sermon on the First Sunday of Advent to the papal household. It deals with the conversion of St. Paul and Paul's understanding of his conversion, but more than that Father Cantalamessa speaks eloquently on why Christianity is different from other spiritual systems.
In his sermon he speaks about Paul's willingness to give up everything Paul had achieved in his own religious world--that of being a well respected Pharisee--for what Christ offered him on the road to Damascus--a different understanding of the role of law in Paul's spirituality and a different relationship with God.
"Every religious proposal begins by telling men what they must do to save themselves or to obtain "illumination." Christianity does not begin by telling men what they must do, but what God has done for them in Christ Jesus. Christianity is the religion of grace."
In the rancorous climate of today's Church, I think we either overlook, or outright forget what makes Christianity truly different from other systems. It's not about the rules, it's about the gift of Grace, freely given and unearned. It's such radical idea, and is so counter cultural, we keep giving it back, or worse yet, attempting to take it away from others.
I suspect this notion of Grace freely given and unearned, is why it is so often metaphorically expressed by Jesus with references to parents and children. As children we aren't aware of so many of the gifts freely given to us by our parents, or the fact that we don't earn most of those we are aware.
As parents, whether of children (or pets for that matter), half the time we don't even think of the gifts we so freely give. We just do it, giving love freely, hoping the gifts will guide our erstwhile charges on a good road, on a beautiful road. It's what Jesus is about too. He's about love freely given in the hopes we can find a good road, a beautiful road that leads to the Kingdom. A Kingdom which is already here, and has many roads leading to it.
I hope readers can take the time to read Fr. Cantalamessa's sermon. As his Advent meditations become available I will continue to link them with this blog. The man is worth reading, and he's also reputed to by a mystic!