August 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The true meaning of Christ's teaching consists in the recognition of love as the supreme law of life, and therefore not admitting any exceptions. - Leo Tolstoy

The message of Christ is so simple we often can't see it or believe it. There is one law and that is love. And there is one sin and that is the refusal or failure to love. When we do not love, the Gospel we are supposed to be sharing becomes cloudy or completely hidden instead of comforting and attractive. In this way we become the greatest hindrance to the spread of the Gospel.

The renowned Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh tells of his conversion to openness towards Jesus. It was not an easy road for him. He cites two examples of the Christian persecution of Buddhists in Vietnam. A 17 century Roman Catholic missionary to Vietnam called Buddha "sinister and deceitful" and wrote that Buddhism must be eradicated, The Vietnamese Catholic Archbishop in an attempt to evangelize the country influenced his brother, the then President of the country, to persecute Buddhists by declaring it illegal to celebrate Wesak, the birthday of the Buddha and a national holiday. So, Hanh developed a very negative view not only of Christianity, but also of Jesus Christ on the basis of the intolerant and misguided attitudes of a few Christians. The change in his perspective came about in this way.

"It was only later through friendships with Christian men and women who truly embody the spirit of understanding and compassion of Jesus, that I have been able to touch the depths of Christianity."

Our lives, our words, our deeds are seen by the world, if we declare ourselves Christian, as representative of Jesus and his Gospel. So we must be careful to represent him well. How many people have turned from the Gospel because the Gospel we preach in word and deed is ours and not his and not Good News at all? I believe that atheism in our day and time is to a large extent a product of our own failure to love as well as our own misunderstandings of what and who Jesus is.

We must be willing to become friends with all of humanity, to love, to show compassion and respect always. In this way we bear witness to the God who is love and to his Son Jesus Christ who brought grace and truth to our darkened world.

With great affection,
+Fr. Antony