So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Jesus: Diplomat or Divine Judge?

Another word for 'diplomatic' in the lexicon of parish jargon is the word 'pastoral'. The use of the word 'pastoral' has become so broad as to include many attitudes and practices that are simply not Catholic, nor even reasonable: laity-designed liturgy that has 'the people' saying parts of the Mass properly belonging to the priest or the choir; use of the sanctuary as a stage for events not related to the Liturgy; a lack of decorum toward the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle; congregationalist type management of parish finances and properties; etc.

We should be diplomatic in the sense that we should be kind toward others in the mission of mercy, of extending to the downtrodden and repentant a helpful word or deed of encouragement and support as we share the saving message of Jesus Christ. Does a concern for diplomacy avoid the necessity of speaking the truth in love, even if the truth hurts? Criticized by low-informed self appointed "pontiffs" who confuse judging behaviour with judging the person, do we avoid judging wrong behaviour for what it is, i.e., sinful behaviour, simply to preserve a perception that Catholics are "nice" people? The understanding that Catholicism is a limp social welfare organization might be a better fit for Canadians who elevate niceness, it seems, above authentic virtue. However, if we put the name 'Catholic' first before 'Canadian', or 'American', etc., as we should, then we might better keep our priorities straight and better represent the Faith in the public square as faithful Catholics who accept and practice right judgement over, say, the non-critical acceptance of sin and indifference to the question of right or wrong.

Confrontation can be unpleasant. Who doesn't want to avoid confrontation, or at least avoid any unnecessary conflict in this day and age of litigious trigger fingers, "human rights" tribunals and pugilistic parishioners who, more congregationalist that Catholic, threaten to walk with their chequebooks when offended for some inane reason, e.g., to protest a priest putting a card in the pew that promotes Catholic teaching on who should and should not receive Holy Communion. As a religious work of art might confront the human condition and point the viewer/hearer toward God, the Liturgy—celebrated faithfully—should confront us with the drama of sin and redemption. Is it any wonder that Catholics, so poorly formed in a correct understanding of the Mass, tend to treat the Liturgy as a mere social gathering with religious overtones? The Liturgy, having been made banal by a distortion of its form and content, is in some parishes little more than a sideshow rather than the supreme drama of man's redemption, i.e., Jesus' sacrifice on Calvary, re-presented on the altar every time Mass is validly celebrated. If the "source and summit" of our faith is ground down from a lofty peak to a barren plain, is it any wonder that Catholics lack the identity to stand up for the Faith in the public square?

Jesus the diplomat?

If we are asking 'What Would Jesus Do?', we can be certain that His example, which led Him to be crucified, will require us to speak and act with kindness and conviction, a kindness that is not saccharine nor dismissive of someone's wrongdoing or ill-informed argument, but a kindness that considers the consequences of actions in light of the Four Last Things—death, judgement, heaven, hell. If we really care, we should find ways to engage people stuck in their sins to help save them from damnation. In sweeter words, we must find ways to engage others so that they may come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, to invite the lost to come home to the Catholic Church founded by Christ as a hospital for sinners, a nursery for saints.

So then, can we imagine a Jesus Who was timid and avoided confrontation? Is Jesus a virile messiah whose teachings and assertions that He is the Son of God led Him to the Cross, or is He the safe, inoffensive prophet of the religious communities that have embraced a culture of entitlement, hedonism and death, a culture that whines then dines on the blood of innocent unborn children in an attempt to sustain itself?

Can we imagine a Jesus Who, instead of confronting the money changers in the Temple with harsh words and a whip, waved His hand in a gesture of casual dismissal as if to say, "Oh well, they are only doing what they need to do to make a buck"?

Jesus, by His words or by His silence, gave people the opportunity to confront the tyranny of sin in their lives. He was gentle, firm, engaging, spoke with authority (How dare he!), and when necessary, showed His anger if only to reveal what is right and just in the precincts of the Lord, which is to say the sanctuary of any parish church and the sanctuary of the human heart.

Parish Priest—Pastor or Pushover?

Since when do the sheep have a vote on the Liturgy and the manner of its celebration? How many pastors, which is to say too many pastors, have become more "sheeplike" at the expense of their calling to shepherd the flock?

Instead of surrendering the Liturgy to the whims and trials of liturgists who lord a non-existent rubric of improvisation over the actual rubrics of the Mass, priests have the responsibility and privilege of conserving the rites so that the true story of the Faith is preserved and communicated to the faithful. The faithful can hardly be expected to remain faithful and grow in the Faith if the Liturgy itself is rife with abuses and excuses.

The Laity—disciples of the Lord Jesus or diplomats of the multicultural state?

Are we to excuse ourselves from the responsibility to mediate to others the saving message of Jesus by caving in to political correctness when an office manager demands we relinquish our beliefs in the public square? Is the demand to serve the public something the state can place above the consciences of civil servants who, desiring the development and well being of the common good, refuse to support state actions that impinge upon charter rights and freedoms?

On the occasion of the Institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Orders, i.e., Holy Thursday, perhaps we might be even more mindful that the Lord Jesus Christ has entrusted us with the Holy Gospel, to spread the message of hope by our lives for the salvation of souls.

Furthermore, the Divine Liturgy entrusted by the Lord to His Church requires our utmost respect. May the "source and summit of the Christian Faith" be celebrated with solemn and sober dignity.

A holy Triduum to all.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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