Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Deeply grateful for friends...

...such as Deacon Scott Dodge, who (in his post over at Καθολικός διάκονος, titled Martyria: On bearing credible witness), pointed me toward the following article:

Casting the First Stone

By Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl

At a recent clergy gathering, the principal celebrant at our Eucharistic Liturgy addressed the Gospel of the day. It was St. Matthew's account of the Last Judgment where the Son of Man comes in his glory and, as a shepherd, separates the sheep from the goats. The homilist walked into the middle of the congregation and began by saying, "I think you on my right must be the sheep and you on my left must be the goats." There was an uneasy chuckle, particularly from those on the left. Then, the bishop turned around and, facing the other direction, said, "Now, you must be the goats and you must be the sheep," pointing to the same congregation but now having a different relationship to his right and left hand. Then he turned around again and said, "Perhaps the message of this Gospel is that we should not be judging. It is the Lord who judges. We are the ones who are judged."

The New Testament is filled with references to Jesus' mercy, forgiveness, kindness, compassion and of his challenge to his followers - to us - not to judge. We should not strain to see the speck in our brother's eye when we have a beam in our own (cf Matthew 7:3). And, of course, there is Jesus' admonition to those so eager to condemn others: "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone..." (John 8:7).

As the editorial in this week's paper points out, "hardly a day goes by that there are not magazine articles, newspaper ads, letters to the editor, blogs or other public declarations in which some people are denounced for being less Catholic, less orthodox, less open, less progressive, less faithful, less whatever, than the person pointing the finger." Incrimination of others has become a hallmark among some groups and individuals in the Catholic Church in our country today.

When our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, visited the United States in April 2008 he provided us an example not only of what needs to be said - the proclamation of the Gospel - but how it is to be said - with clarity, conviction and charity. One felt the presence of the Good Shepherd leading, encouraging, challenging his flock. Yet even our Holy Father was not immune from personal attacks when he failed to live up to the standards for his behavior set by others. The Catholic Standard editorial noted this verbal abuse of the Pope: "In a heartfelt appeal to the world's bishops, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has recently written a letter concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre in which he laments the confusion and misinterpretation surrounding the letter and points to the pain that personal attacks on him and his integrity have caused. He notes that he 'was saddened by the fact that even Catholics...thought they had to attack me with open hostility.'"

If we think something is wrong we should address it. But we are required to do so in a way that reflects who we are. Christians must not only speak the truth but must also do so in love (Ephesians 4:15). It is not enough that we know or believe something to be true. We must express truth in charity, with respect for others so that the bonds between us can be strengthened in building up the Church of Christ.

We are called to a higher level of respect for the truth and for each other than often is witnessed in some radio and television talk shows. The intensity of one's opinion is not the same as the truth. Speaking out of anger does not justify falsehood.

Even those who describe themselves as polemists or are complicit in the adulation of being so named are bound by both the commandment, "You shall not bear false witness" (Deuteronomy 5:20), and Jesus' instruction, "love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another" (John 13:34).

The more I reflect on our current level of Christian discourse, particularly in some of the highly opinionated publications, I sense the wisdom in the homily by my brother bishop when he reminded all of us that the division of the house into sheep and goats is really the task of the Lord in his role as Judge. In the meantime, unless we can truly say we are without sin, we should not cast the first or any stone.

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."