Truth Is Known by Its Fruits

Interfaith Friendship

Truth Is Known by Its Fruits
Monday, December 4, 2017

If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. —Martin Luther King, Jr. [1]

Different religious traditions can engage in dialogue with one another in a true spirit of ecumenism. Dialogue can be fruitful and enriching if both sides are truly open. . . . Peace will be a beautiful flower blooming on this field of practice. —Thich Nhat Hanh [2]

The Perennial Tradition includes truths within Catholic, Franciscan, Episcopalian, Calvinist, Lutheran, and other Christian denominations and orders. It also embraces wisdom within Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam. In fact, if we’re honest, each of these faith traditions share something in common with Christianity. We need to honor truth and wisdom’s authority in all its forms. If it’s true, it’s true everywhere. That should make us happy—not defensive or aggressive.

In discerning truth, our first question should not be, “Who said it? Did a Catholic, Methodist, or Hindu say it?” That should be of little concern. Of greater importance is, “Is it true?” Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a Doctor of the Church, held that if it was true, it was always from the one Holy Spirit. [3]

Notice that two-thirds of the Christian Bible are comprised of the Hebrew Scriptures; and the Old Testament writers themselves built upon stories, traditions, names of God, and practices that existed before Israelite history. Scripture gathers together cumulative visions of the divine. Jesus befriended and affirmed Samaritans, Roman citizens, pagans, and Syrophoenicians, which was shocking to many of his Jewish compatriots. But what’s even more shocking is that, in the name of this entirely inclusive Jewish man, Jesus, we created an exclusionary religion that ended up repeating what he condemned in his lifetime. It is the non-argumentative, contemplative mind that can easily see this.

Cistercian monk Thomas Merton (1915-1968) helped Christianity recover its contemplative foundations, which quickly opened the doors to interfaith dialogue. Most Catholics were not ready for Merton before the reforms of Vatican II (1962-1965). Prophets are always ahead of their times. Merton corresponded and met with spiritual leaders from many traditions: Abraham Heschel (1907-1972), a Jewish rabbi and scholar; Sufi Muslims from the mystical vein of Islam; Bede Griffiths (1906-1993), a Benedictine monk and yogi from an ashram in India; and Zen Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh (b. 1926).

CAC core teacher James Finley learned from Merton while living at the Abbey of Gethsemani from 1961-1967. He reflects that Merton believed the world could not survive if religion remained at the clannish level. This false competition doesn’t serve anyone. On the other hand, openness to other traditions can and should deepen our commitment to our own faith and practice. This is one of the primary fruits of obeying Jesus’ simple command to “love our neighbor.” I presume loving others means listening to them and respecting them as brothers and sisters.

Gateway to Silence:
We are already one.

References:
[1] Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Christmas Sermon on Peace,” given at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, December 24, 1967. See A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (HarperCollins: 1991), 253.
[2] Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ (Riverhead Books: 1995), 196.
[3] Thomas Aquinas, De Veritate, q. 1, a. 8, ad. 1. Also Summa Theologica, I-II, q. 109, a. 1, ad. 1. In his writings, Aquinas attributed this statement “Omne verum, a quocumque dicatur, a Spiritu Sancto est” to Ambrose.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Returning to Essentials: Teaching an Alternative Orthodoxy, disc 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2015), CD, MP3 download; and
Richard Rohr, unpublished talk at New Mexico Interfaith Dialogue, The 23rd Annual Spring Colloquium, “Mystics and Prophets: Ancient Light for Today’s World,” March 7, 2017.

Numbers only; no punctuation

Need assistance with this form?

The work of the Center for Action and Contemplation is possible only because of friends and supporters like you!

Learn more about making a donation to the CAC.

FacebookTwitterEmailPrint