Can you imagine the possibilities if a man of the immense talent of Bill Gates, with his extraordinary influence on so many fronts, had a life changing encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ? Grace perfects or completes nature, to quote the angelic doctor Thomas Aquinas. Imagine what this man could do after being captured by Jesus Christ. Bill Gates can have the same kind of encounter that brought the Apostle Paul, and countless other leaders through the ages, to that kind of transformation in Christ!
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - A wide-ranging interview Jeff Goodell had with Bill Gates for Rolling Stone magazine has generated a lot of responses in the media. It appears in the March 27, 2014 edition. You can read the interesting dialogue here.
There are many fascinating topics addressed in the interview. It will provide material for many articles and reflections from people across the political spectrum. The reaction in the Christian community was mixed.
Christians who still hold to the Natural Moral Law position, rooted in the Scriptures and confirmed throughout the consistent teaching of the Church - on the dignity of every human life, including our first neighbors in the womb, and the beauty and meaning of the conjugal embrace within marriage - are aware of the inconsistency between the faith claims of Melinda Gates to being a practicing Catholic and the work of the Gates Foundation in Africa.
There, where the Foundation is engaged in many commendable efforts, it also promotes easier access to abortion, abortifacient chemical contraception, condoms, and programs which undermine the African family. Of course, as is often the case, those who promote such a deficient view of marriage, fertility, human sexuality and freedom, claim to be compassionate while promoting programs which reject the truth about life and deny the dignity of marriage, women and family.
No one speaks more eloquently or prophetically to the built in contradiction between the profession of Catholic faith by Melinda Gates and her contradictory actions than our friend, a frequent contributor to Catholic Online and the founder of Culture of Life Africa, Obianuju Ekeocha. Uju is an African woman, living and working in the United Kingdom as a Specialist Biomedical Scientist.
However, I want to write about something quite different; the missionary moment which this interview with Bill Gates presents to us. It is interesting to note the dialogue between Bill Gates and Jeff Goodell, in the Rolling Stones interview, on the topic of moral and religious issues. Here is the excerpt:
You're a technologist, but a lot of your work now with the foundation has a moral dimension. Has your thinking about the value of religion changed over the years?
The moral systems of religion, I think, are superimportant. We've raised our kids in a religious way; they've gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in. I've been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that's kind of a religious belief. I mean, it's at least a moral belief.
Do you believe in God?
I agree with people like Richard Dawkins that mankind felt the need for creation myths. Before we really began to understand disease and the weather and things like that, we sought false explanations for them. Now science has filled in some of the realm - not all - that religion used to fill. But the mystery and the beauty of the world is overwhelmingly amazing, and there's no scientific explanation of how it came about.
To say that it was generated by random numbers, that does seem, you know, sort of an uncharitable view [laughs]. I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don't know.
I offer a very different response than some of my fellow Christians, whether Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, to this interview; at least what I have read thus far. That is not to say that there is no room for dissecting the responses of Bill Gates with a critical analysis.
I refuse to do so. I offer an alternative lens within which to view the encounter, a lens which believes in the power of God to change men and women.A lens of a Church history where, at significant moments in the loving plan of God, significant leaders experienced conversion.
I suggest that his obvious openness to "reducing inequity", his open fascination with the "mystery and beauty of the world" and his obvious attraction to considering the moral implications of believing in God, should draw everyone of us who bear the name Christian to our knees in prayer for this man and his wife.
These are the signs of a man being drawn into an encounter with the Lord through whom the Universe was created and in whom both Bill and Melinda Gates can find the fulfillment of their deepest longings by being re-created, made new. (2 Cor. 5:17)
I sincerely hope that after achieving amazing success on so many fronts in the advance of technology, they are in an existential season in their own lives. Those are the times when men and women are so often opened to having a life altering encounter with the Lord. Maybe they are experiencing that "restless heart" of which Augustine wrote, "You have made us for yourself Oh Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in You".
The Christian Church has a history of praying leaders to the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ with utterly amazing historical implications. One has only to consider Constantine or, out taken of our recent liturgical celebration of St Patrick's day, the former Druid slave-owner of Patrick who was won to Christianity when Patrick returned to Ireland to evangelize the Nation.
This can happen today!
We are living in a new missionary age. The message of the Gospel and the Christian vision of the human person, the family and a truly good society are the path to real peace and real progress. It always has been and always will be. That is because it brings men and women into an encounter with a Divine Person, the Risen Jesus Christ the Savior. In that encounter, they discover the meaning of human existence and the mystery of their own lives.
As the fathers of the last great Church Council said so well in Paragraph 22 of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes - Joy and Hope)
The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown. He who is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15), (2 Cor. 4:4.) is Himself the perfect man.
To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man.(Gaudium et spes #22)
Finally, we are commanded by God's word -and instructed by the Church- to pray for our leaders.We should take the admonition to heart and actually do so! When the Apostle Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy, whom he had established in leadership of the Church in Ephesus, he gave explicit instructions to the Christian community:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:1-4)
In its excellent treatment on prayer, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, addresses the many forms of prayer, including intercession. It explains the seriousness of the early Christian understanding of this obligation to pray for leaders. It cites that passage from Timothy as well as many others from the Bible. I have included them in the following quote:
Since Abraham, intercession - asking on behalf of another has been characteristic of a heart attuned to God's mercy. In the age of the Church, Christian intercession participates in Christ's, as an expression of the communion of saints. In intercession, he who prays looks "not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others," even to the point of praying for those who do him harm.(Phil 2:4; cf. Acts 7:60; Lk 23:28,34)
The first Christian communities lived this form of fellowship intensely. 116 Cf. Acts 12:5; 20:36; 21:5; 2 Cor 9:14. Thus the Apostle Paul gives them a share in his ministry of preaching the Gospel (Cf. Eph 6:18-20; Col 4:3-4; 1 Thess 5:25) but also intercedes for themThe intercession of Christians recognizes no boundaries: "for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions," for persecutors, for the salvation of those who reject the Gospel.119 .(Cf. 2 Thess 1:11; Col 1:3; Phil 1:3-4.) Cf. 2 Thess 1:11; Col 1:3; Phil 1:3-4. (CCC#2635, 2636)
Well, most of us do not have Kings to pray for anymore. But we do have many different kinds of leaders - in many different sectors of our social life together. There is no doubt that Bill and Melinda Gates are significant leaders in this Nation - and around the world. They are already being exposed to the Truth of the Gospel and the teaching of the Christian faith when they attend the Catholic Church together as a family.
Certainly, one could spend energy discussing and parsing why some of what they must be hearing does not seem to be finding good soil, as evidenced in some of their decisions. I choose to take another approach - and ask you to join me.
Join me in adding Bill and Melinda Gates to your prayer list. Yes, that's right; that presumes we have a prayer list. We should have one. Prayer is the most powerful force for good in the universe.
The older I get the more I have come to believe I would not have the great treasure of living faith in Jesus Christ and His Church, and all that entails, unless someone, perhaps many someone's, were praying for me. Yes, the seed of faith was planted in me at Baptism, but I needed to give my Yes - and still do - every day. Prayer makes tht possible and opens my eyes to see all of life differently through living faith.
I needed grace, and still need grace every day. So do Bill and Melinda Gates - and the best thing we could all do is to commit ourselves to fervent prayer for them to encounter the Lord and His truth in a profound and life changing way.
Can you imagine the possibilities if a man of the immense talent of Bill Gates, with his extraordinary influence on so many fronts, had a life changing encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ? Grace perfects or completes nature, to quote the angelic doctor Thomas Aquinas.
Imagine what this man could do after being captured by Jesus Christ. Bill Gates can have the same kind of encounter that brought the Apostle Paul, and countless other leaders through the ages, to that kind of transformation in Christ!
Imagine the good that Melinda Gates could really do if she came to see the truth taught infallibly by the Church she professes to follow concerning the dignity of every single human person, including our youngest neighbors in the womb. She can!
After all, it is the same Lord, same Holy Spirit and same Church. We are invited to participate in the miracles of this age and to believe in the power of prayer to change people, cultures and nations.
Just as Leaders have encountered the Lord throughout Church history,and been completely transformed in the encounter, they can do so today. Many more will, if we pray with living faith and perseverance. Join me in praying for Bill and Melinda Gates.
If you would like to join a growing coalition of Christians, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant, in building a network dedicated to such prayer for leaders, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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