… continues to impress.
BEND — We live in an age which places a very strong emphasis on tolerance, mutuality, and acceptance. I have heard repeatedly over the years that “Jesus never judged, condemned or excluded anyone.” I wonder if Peter would agree as the words of Jesus, “Get behind me you Satan,” rang in his ears. I wonder if the Scribes and the Pharisees would agree as they rankled at being called whitened sepulchers or broods of vipers. I wonder if those who heard Jesus say, “Whoever leads one of these little ones astray, it would be better if he had a millstone tied around his neck and be cast into the sea,” nodded approval and said, “He is so tolerant and accepting.” This verse is included, virtually verbatim, in each of the three Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. I certainly have no qualms about the image of Jesus as kind and gentle, or with Jesus’ own description of Himself as “meek and humble of heart.” I see and appreciate the great appeal of one of the most recent devotions fostered so powerfully by our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, that of Divine Mercy. Each of these attractive and reassuring aspects of Jesus needs to be remembered. These are aspects of Jesus that we cannot afford to forget and to which we can and must cling. At the same time we do well not to forget that the Lord is also a “God of power and might.” Jesus stood up to the guards who came to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane. He stood courageously before Pilate. He bore His cross with noble, unflinching determination. He is not a God of weakness. He is strong and He defends His people. This accounts for the strong language used when the “little ones” of His flock are put at risk.
In our “compromising age” we are loath to name something too strongly. If we do, we are accused of harshness, judgmentalism, perhaps arrogance, certainly intolerance and possibly pharisaism. While it is always necessary to speak the truth with love, the Church also believes and teaches that it is also necessary to speak the truth with strength. It is necessary to defend truth and not be too quick to rationalize, justify or excuse misleading teachings or teachers. There is a point at which passive “tolerance” allows misleading teachings to be spread and propagated, thus confusing or even misleading the faithful about the truths of the Church. There is a very strong word, which still exists in our Church, which most of us are too “gentle” to use. The word is “heresy.” We perhaps think that heresy is a thing of the past. We think perhaps of the Arian heresy or the Pelagian heresy or the Manichaen heresy. We might even maintain that there are no longer any heretics because that conjures up images of inquisitions and burnings at the stake. I do not, in any way, seek to validate or justify any kind of “vigilante” theology, but we do need strong words to combat erroneous and fallacious teaching.
One of the great modern errors is via the conduit of tolerance to avoid calling a sin a sin. That this should be done with prudence and great love is a given because true love of neighbor requires it of us. Truth shouldn’t be used as a blunt instrument to pound, but as a scalpel delicately used to remove damaged tissue. The Parable of the Good Samaritan could be retold today along these lines. If the man had fallen in with a bad crowd as he journeyed from Jerusalem to Jericho and was in objectively grave you can easily imagine the situation.
Now by chance a progressive priest walked by and when he saw him he tolerated his sin and walked to the other side. So likewise a theologian in a Catholic university saw him and he did the same in the name of tolerance. Another man disgusted by the man’s sin also walked to the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and rebuked him for his sin and then prayed for him and preached the Gospel and the redemption of sin. Through his love he helped to bind his wounds and lead him to a Church for confession so that the wounds would not remain mortal. Which of these, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers of eternal life with God?" He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."