Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Quick Quips: Faithfulness, Messy Church, Failure to Respond

I thought I would try something different today. Instead of trying to create a long article out of one of the ideas bouncing around in my head and losing much of the other ideas in the process, I thought I’d try posting some short reflections under the heading of Quick Quips

Whoever is Trustworthy in Small Matters...

Our Lord has some things to say which seem especially fitting for our time and the attitude of rebellion which we are facing. In Luke 16:10, He tells us, “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.

I was struck by this passage the other day when seeing a large number of Catholics on Facebook objecting to Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical Laudato Si. One of the objections which was voiced was the complaint that, “Why is the Pope focussing on something so insignificant, compared to all the other issues out there?” Some have gone so far as to say that the Pope is neglecting souls while speaking about the environment.

But instead of cataloging and refuting every objection that is made, I’d like to point out one thing here. If you think that the moral obligations towards the environment is an insignificant matter compared to other issues that trouble you more, why not just seek to be faithful in these “small matters” instead of using your belief that it is “unimportant” as a justification to ignore the moral teaching an encyclical involves?

After all, if a person is faithless in what they see as a small matter like heeding the moral obligations of Catholics in regards to the environment, then why should he or she be seen as trustworthy when it comes to teaching the faith in greater matters? If a dissenter sees you rejecting the authority of the Church in a matter you disagree with and find unimportant, then why should this dissenter respect the authority of the Church in a matter he or she disagrees with?

Now I don’t mean we have to hold to a scrupulous or pharisaical legalism, in obedience. But, when the Pope says “We have this obligation,” why not say “OK,” instead of looking for ways to justify disobedience?

The Church is a Mess? Why do you say this like it is Something New?

Dissenting Priests, whacko nuns, bishops who seem weak in the face of sin, corruption and defiance. Such things do scandalize the Church today. But, when you read the unabridged Lives of the Saints, a history, or other works from the past—back before Church teaching was considered debatable—you can see that the Church was always a mess because the Church is made up of people who see things differently on how things should be done, even when they are acting out of good faith.

Sometimes a saint was opposed by a person who misunderstood their calling. Sometimes a person dissuaded a saint from something they wanted to do to keep them on track. Sometimes opposition was rooted in heresy or schism. Sometimes it was rooted in natural disagreements. But when you read the lives of some saints in past centuries, the situations they faced sound remarkably similar to the situations of today.

But there’s a myth today that back in the pre-Vatican II Church, the Vatican stopped every dissent and disobedience cold. Actually, no. Heresies lasted for hundreds of years, kings tried to impose their will on the Church in their realms, people took a lax view towards their faith, and allegations about the immorality of clergy circulated as widely then as now. That’s why the Church back then needed saints who were preachers and confessors in the nations who had formerly embraced the faith.

But I think we need to ask ourselves a couple of things here—Are we willing to answer the call (as opposed to waiting for someone else to do it)? And are we willing to work with the Church (as opposed to treating the magisterium as an adversary)?

What Can Separate Us From the Love of Christ? Nothing—But that Doesn’t Mean We Won’t Fail to Respond.

I was reading Romans 8 this morning and was struck by a thought. When St. Paul was speaking about not fearing the trials and tribulations, it struck me that he was talking about the fact that in the battle for our souls, nobody is going to defeat Our Lord and steal us away from Him against His our will. It’s not going to be a case of Our Lord being left defeated on the battlefield, scratching His head and wondering, “How did that happen?"

So if this is the case, how do people go to hell? I would say that the devil works by convincing people that they don’t need to fight and don’t need to change. Whether he does this by persuading people to reject religion, or to practice religion in a way which is focussed on the self instead of God, he deceives us by having us put our own will first while making what God calls us to be a secondary matter,  Our Lord’s words on straining the gnat and swallowing the camel (Matthew 23:24) come to mind here. We focus on things that may be good in themselves, but do it in a way which neglects the bigger picture—like focusing on liturgy and neglecting social justice; or focussing on social justice while neglecting the moral issues.

In other words, when we make adherence to only part of God’s teaching while choosing to ignore the rest, we are failing to respond to God’s love as we are called.

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