Is Jesus the only Way?

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter (Year B) – Acts 4:8-12; Psalms 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 21; First John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18. This series appears each Wednesday.

Photography © by Andy Coan

‘No other name given under heaven’

It’s not politically incorrect to believe in God.  Just so long as you acknowledge that all are God’s children, and that there are many, equally honorable paths to the Most High.

After all, that’s only fair.  How conceited it would be to claim that your way is the only way.

There is nothing really new about this attitude. In the days of the Roman Emperors, no one had any problems with people worshiping some carpenter from Galilee who they believed to be God’s son. As long as they’d be broad-minded enough to worship the emperor and Jupiter, and the rest of the Pantheon as well.  But instead, they believed what Peter proclaimed in this Sunday’s first reading: that there is no other name given under heaven by which we can be saved (Acts 4). Not Caesar, or Jupiter, or Mohammed, or Buddha. For such arrogant closed-mindedness they were thrown to the lions.

Does this mean that other creeds have nothing to offer but damnable lies? Not in the least. St. Justin Martyr (d. 165) said that there were “seeds of truth” scattered about in the teaching of the great philosophers. St. Paul honored the Athenians for their pious worship of the “unknown” God (Acts 17).

But we are not talking here about bits and pieces of truth, but about eternal salvation. Redemption required more than some good lectures or inspiring quotes – namely, a perfect sacrifice of a perfect life, a life of infinite value. Buddha did not lay down his life for his followers. Neither did Mohammed. And even if they had, they weren’t “savior” qualified in terms of possessing a sinless life of infinite (read divine) value.

Only the Word made flesh was qualified, and only he dared do it. He is, as Sunday’s gospel teaches us, the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. But he is not exclusivist; his sheep include anyone wants to be one of his sheep, even those who formerly drove the nails into his sacred hands. One sacrifice for all people, for all time.

Does this mean that if people haven’t heard of Him and continue to follow Mohammed or Buddha that they are certainly hell bound? Not exactly. For we are told that there are “other sheep” who do not yet travel with the flock but who do belong to the Shepherd. Responding to the hidden grace of the Holy Spirit, they’ve opened their heart to the truth wherever it may be found, and seek to do what their conscience tells them is their duty. They may be devotees of Mohammed or Buddha because their hearts have recognized some sparks of truth and goodness in the teaching of those men, and they are hungry for truth and righteousness. If they die good Muslims or Buddhists and are saved, they are saved not by Mohammed or Buddha, but by the only savior, the one who died for them, the unknown God that they secretly sought as they eagerly read the Koran or contemplated the bliss of nirvana.

So we should just leave them alone since they’ll be saved anyway, right? That’s not what the gospel says. The fact that it is possible they’ll be saved doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing. The Shepherd wants to feed his sheep with rich fare, with nourishment adequate for the long and arduous journey home. And he wants to protect them from the thieves and robbers waiting to ambush the sheep as they make their way down the road. He can only do this if he can gather them into one flock that he can lead to the green pastures of the Scriptures, the Sacraments, and the rich Tradition of the Catholic Church, the nourishment that makes for not just survival, but an abundant life (John 10:10). So it’s our duty to do what we can to introduce them to the Shepherd and let them know where the best food is to be found.


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118. This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is reproduced here by permission of the author.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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