As I write this, the gospel of the day is from Luke 6:6-11. This is the story of Jesus healing the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath – to the outrage of the Pharisees.
Scripture tells us that Jesus was teaching in the synagogue and the Pharisees were watching Him closely, waiting for Him to heal the man they saw there. When He did – as they knew He would – “they became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.”
Note they weren’t dismayed at seeing work done on the Sabbath because they loved the law. They weren’t concerned for Jesus because He transgressed that law. Likewise they weren’t amazed at the miracle performed before their very eyes, nor did they rejoice for the man restored to health. They were ‘enraged’.
Can’t you just picture them huddled together, whispering and murmuring to each other like Grima Wormtongue in the ear of King Theoden, inciting greater animosity, deeper anger, more vicious hatred?
“Oh, those Pharisees,” we tell ourselves, “they sure did miss the point.”
The Pharisees were more concerned with the letter of the law than with the love behind the law. They believed they had found the one true way to perfection, and anyone who trod a different path was not only wrong, but destined for perdition. They were smug with pride in their knowledge of Jewish law and teaching. They were eager to tear down anyone who erred. I picture them like carrion buzzards, dark and menacing, ugly and cruel, circling around a weakened prey, waiting for death so they can pounce. Spiritually speaking, I think that is exactly what is happening when lovers of the law, triumphant in their position of ‘right’, bypass charity and mercy in order to vindicate their own position.
I come across Pharisee-like Catholics often enough to concern me. I look around me at the world and see all that we must contend with: materialism, secularism, consumerism, relativism, depravity, lack of common sense, attacks on the family from schools and governments, and so on. Why, with all of that confronting us, are we attacking each other from within?
Our one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church is a mighty big Church. She has room for women who wear chapel veils and for women who wear trousers. She allows for the vernacular as well as Latin. We have saintly examples of a wide variety of spiritualties and charisms and each of them make use of our individual gifts and personalities in order to bring glory to God.
God. He is the heart of everything, isn’t He? And He is love. Why do we so often forget love when we deal with each other? Have you read the comment boxes of a Catholic blog or newspaper article lately? For that matter, have you read some of the Catholic blogs or newspapers out there lately? I see circling vultures, not charitable Catholics eager to lovingly correct where there is error. I see school yard behaviour in the name calling and labeling (Mad Trads, Vorisites, AmChurch – just in what I read today, and these were from widely-read Catholic writers.) I see pride in people who believe ‘their’ brand of Catholic is the only ‘right’ way to be Catholic and everyone else better prepare their handbasket for their trip to you-know-where.
In his homily on Sunday, Father reminded us in his congregation of this important rule: love the sinner; hate the sin. We may be speaking about a president we dislike, a priest we despair of, a person responsible for atrocity, but we must remember we are speaking about a human being. Be polite. Be charitable. Be kind!
It is an injunction given to married couples all the time: love is a decision. Choose to love your spouse even when you don’t feel loving toward him. He’s driving you up the wall? Love him. She’s working your last nerve? Love her. The same applies to every person you meet throughout your day. The old timer is driving at a glacial pace? Respond with love. That coworker spent the entire morning on the phone planning a fabulous Hawaiian vacation? Clearly this is an issue that needs to be addressed, but do so with love (for love does not mean to overlook faults).
With such divisiveness within our Church, such animosity between Catholic factions, how can we respond to Pope Francis’ call for us to bring Christ to the world? How can we share God’s love with anyone, when we do not love each other? How can we face the world and say we are the One True Church founded by Christ?
I believe we can correct this behaviour. I believe the time is now, with the Holy Father showing us the way with his simple humility, his gentleness, and charity. And above all, we have the example of our Heavenly Father in scripture:
“The Lord is gracious and compassionate
Slow to anger and rich in love,
The Lord is good to all
And compassionate to all His works.”
(Psalm 145: 8,9)
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