Sunday, November 3, 2013
GATHER US IN OR SHALL WE GATHER AT THE RIVER?
Msgr. James Moroney made a distinction in theology that I've always known, at least for the last few years, that God is the initiator of our salvation and presence before him.
Thus he used two examples of hymns that are familiar to many of us to make his point.
The first is "Shall We Gather At the River" which is a very popular Protestant hymn. Like much in Protestantism, the burden falls upon the sinner, to come to Jesus, to gather at the river, to accept Jesus Christ as one's Lord and Savior and so on.
"Shall we Gather at the River" is the epitome of this initiative the sinner must take to come to God or to Christ.
But compare that Protestant hymn with "Gather Us In." Now just a disclosure before anyone freaks out, I do not like this hymn anymore, but in my previous parish it was in our hymnbook and it was sung frequently as the Processional hymn, what some call "The Gathering Hymn" which really dates the person who uses it, but I digress.
"Gather Us In" is very singable and congregations do sing it well. But the point that Msgr. Moroney was making is that the presupposition of this hymn is that it is God who is gathering us in. He is the one beckoning us to come by His grace. It is his initiative not ours precisely because it is His desire planted in our hearts by faith received by grace.
The same is true of salvation. Protestants, at least those of the Calvinist genre always like to say "I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior." They love to ask others if they have done likewise.
Catholics are perplexed by the question and aren't sure how to answer. That is good. My answer is that Jesus has accepted me as His adopted son through Holy Baptism and made me a member of the Church He founded--He has gathered me into the Church of savlation!
I know, that's a bit long, but it does the trick.