I’ve heard an urban legend that Martin Luther recanted on his deathbed and asked for last rites, so that he died a good Catholic. I’ve heard an urban legend that because he did not, in fact, recant he was seized by demons and dragged in agony to hell as a bad Protestant. What a contrast. Either he repented at that last possible moment and was ushered back into the true Christian Church under the earthly authority of the Pope, the Vicar of Christ or he was dragged off to hell — at least in the minds of Vatican I strict Roman Catholics.
How odd, to me, that persons who profess the same Lord and Savior have such evil thoughts regarding one another. One group claims if you refuse to attend to the Pope as the one and only representative of Christ on earth, then you are condemned. Another group claims that if you recognize an authority other than Christ’s, then you are condemned. After all, the papacy is the anti-Christ. Down to the wire, the Pope’s either the Vicar of Christ or he’s the Anti-Christ.
I grew up in the Protestant church, in several denominations. I’ve attended Roman Catholic masses, and committed the unthinkable (for many Catholics, that is and probably for some Protestants) — I’ve received the Eucharist. I’ve recognized the body of Christ in some churches; in other churches, I’ve accepted that the emblems only become the body of Christ within my own body, and in others I’ve agreed that these are just symbols of Christ’s sacrifice. Honestly, the Eucharist is the only time “communion” makes an emotional impact, even as I reject the words “accept this sacrifice at our hands” which makes no scriptural sense to me. The least effective “communion” is self-serve. Go up, take the little piece of bread, dip it in the grape juice, take it without a thought in your head and walk back to your seat. Too fast, too slick, rather pathetic for me, anyway. Like going to McDonald’s for a Jesus Happy Meal.
I probably seem a bit like the women Paul condemns — those tossed about on the winds of various doctrines. However, if you listen to Protestants speak of our Lord and then listen to Roman Catholics speak of our Lord and you do not know which person is of which belief system, you likely would not know which one — in your opinion — should be dragged off to hell on his deathbed.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the power, the glory and the kingdom forever. Amen.