By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 22-09-2016
(I was 25 when the historic Second Vatican Council ended in 1965. I was fired by it then. The council was an opening for further developments. That did not happen. I left the Jesuits after being one of them for 25 years. I still live by the ideals I learnt as a Jesuit. I live by the spirit of the council. For the two months I am in the US, I am revisiting the documents of Vatican II. I am especially studying the decrees on ecumenism, approaches to other Christian churches, and non-Christian religions. Currently I spend my energy and resources for the Unity of Humanity and Amity among Religions.)Unity of Humanity in God is the supreme goal. Unity of religions and close friendship among them are essential to achieve that goal. It is not difficult to understand this when we know we are all children of the one and only God who is the loving Father and Mother of us all. Thus ecumenism among all Christian churches and all religions became a vital part of my everyday living. In all this I do not want to overlook the many crucial struggles and the great differences among humans of the past. In every cooperative enterprise, candor, respect, faithfulness to one’s conscience, and tolerance as well as empathy and compassion are indispensable.We also need to put everything in sound historical perspective and current theological insight. This is necessary to extricate ourselves from disputes unto death that our ancestors engaged in the past. Our loyalty always is to the Will of God and not to the wrong views of our ancestors. It does not matter to which side they belonged. What matters is to what side we belong today in the light of God’s call we are given for the One Humanity after honestly evaluating everything that happened including all the doctrinal developments in the past.After going through all the decrees about and closely connected to ecumenism, I came to a theological conviction that things are simple or complicated as we want them to be. Right from the beginning, for instance, there were many factions or churches in the one Christian community. Dogmatic developments came to solve problems of the time. Whether they solved the problems of the time or their solutions led to complicated problems and deeply-entrenched self-righteousness is another question. I do not think at the present time the hierarchical authority of the Catholic Church needs to insist that the fullness of life in Christ or a complete incorporation into the system of salvation according to the plan of Christ or a complete participation in Eucharistic communion resides only in the Catholic Church. The response of a well-known non-Catholic Christian, who played a leading role in the formation of the World Council of Churches, to the decree of the Council on Ecumenism is worth recalling. His statement implied that ecumenism should be centered on Christ and not on the Roman Catholic Church. I do not think any person focused on the Kingdom of God can disagree with that. We need to retrieve the teachings of Christ from the unfortunate historic baggage of polemics and of who is right and wrong. Let history speak for itself. Christ’s teachings in the scriptures are simple and easily understood by sincere persons who surrender wholeheartedly to God, and are willingly led by the Holy Spirit.A PLAN FOR ECUMENISM: This is a very simple practical plan. When people come together and cooperate on common good based on the teachings of Christ or fundamental teachings of other religions and good will, a spontaneous energy and enthusiasm that is very contagious is generated. Person needs to be convinced that a common goal worth pursuing is there for all.In the United States that is purported to lead the world, I am witnessing an amoral society where anything goes, and where what matters most currently are power, might, and manipulation cleverly used to brow-beat others, and brain-wash them into subjugation. A couple of generations lost in the confusion of divorce, moral decay, and mindless affluence are striving to gain power and control to compensate for their lost identity. We thought we were coming out of the indescribable evils of racism in the 1960’s in the USA by declaring human and civil rights for all. We thought we were coming out of the cold war with the breakdown of the authoritarian Soviet Union in the early 1990’s. We thought we were making much progress in human rights internationally. We still have an impotent, anachronistic United Nations where major world powers are jockeying for power and their spheres of influence and dominance. The same old colonialism, imperialism, and religious fanaticism are raising their ugly heads wearing new masks. They are openly challenging human rights seducing the un-enlightened by offering material prosperity they are bound to fail in delivering.We do have a moral emergency as the fabric of moral values and decency is corroding at its very foundation. True and humble leaders of Christian denominations and other religious groups need to fill the interim vacuum of leadership by urgently come together with an open mind for the sake of humanity, and chart areas of cooperation before the whole world sinks into a human-made chaos and confusion. We need to focus on external forum. By doing things that are practical and helpful in living a life of love, the Holy Spirit will work on bringing about changes in the internal forum. By internal forum is meant living a life that is according to one’s conscience in the area of faith and morals. No compromise of one’s values is required. Genuine love, candor, and respect overcome all obstacles. We see that again and again in mixed marriages where partners/spouses belong to different religions or races.It is not that we do not have a world order that is many times better than the previous ones. It is just that we are at cross-roads, and that we need great courage and integrity to choose the path of righteousness (sanatan dharma) that will involve many sacrifices to finish our task God intends for us. While evil leaders who play games with humanity, and titillate the ignorant with false promises of material prosperity, leaders of integrity from many walks of life can unselfishly cooperate in increasing and sharing available resources that can benefit all. Initial resistances and suspicions melt down, barriers gradually vanish. Vested interests and hidden agenda have no place in these cooperative enterprises. Holy Spirit can triumph only in genuineness, transparency, and purity of intention. God’s will can manifest only in such a climate.A footnote to the above: History does not generally favor the official religious heads of the past and the present who formulated and still formulate fantastic doctrines for the world of an after-life. It favors those who advocated human rights and risked their lives to save others from tyrants and oppressors in this world. That was also Christ’s mission in this world. I have not the slightest doubt that Christ’s mission in today’s world would be the Unity of humanity and friendship among religions while fighting for the oppressed and the down-trodden.
About The Author
Dr. John K Thekkedam (Swami Snehananda Jyoti) spent most of his life as a clinical psychologist in USA. He began his public life as a Jesuit priest. Quite attracted in distinct philosophies, he left the society and founded 'East West Awakening'.