|THE TEACHING OF CHRIST|
By Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl
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.