The challenge usually comes suddenly; it is how you respond that makes the difference.
Just this past week, with the passage of the same-sex marriage law in Illinois I was approached by a few people with comments such as: Who is the Catholic Church that they can judge us? You have no right to dictate to us your political agenda. My answer to them was unsatisfactory in their eyes – as I expected.
Though I didn’t have it with me at the time, and I doubt it would have made a difference; his Holiness Benedict XVI wrote an essay titled ‘The Church on the Threshold of the New Millenium’ that was eventually published in a book of his works called: ‘Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith’ that contained a most full and robust explanation of why Holy Mother Church does what she does.
‘The Church is not there for her own sake. She cannot be like an association that, in difficult circumstances, is simply trying to keep its head above water. She has a task to perform for the world, for mankind. The only reason she has to survive is because her disappearance would drag humanity into the whirlpool of the eclipse of God and, thus, into the eclipse, indeed the destruction, of all that is human. We are not fighting for our own survival; we know that we have been entrusted with a mission that lays upon us a responsibility for everyone. That is why the Church has to measure herself, and be measured by others, by the extent to which the presence of God, the knowledge of him, and the acceptance of his will are alive within her. A church that was merely an organization pursuing its own ends would be the caricature of a Church.’
I was reminded of this the other day when another person told me that she was thankful for the new pope; ‘his attitude seems to be more accommodating, more live and let live’ she said. That with Pope Francis there wouldn’t be this rush to judgment and aggressive agenda against those who feel differently. From other comments she said it was obvious she was reading the mainstream press’ selected quotes from Pope Francis. I pointed out that it is only in his personality, his style of delivery, that he is different from Benedict XIV, the content remains the same. I explained that she would know this if she just read more fully what both great men have written and said, instead of just taking filtered quotes. I then read her an excerpt from the first homily given by the new pope and she was surprised.
‘We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord. … When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
Not willing to give up her opinions of Pope Francis and Benedict XVI she mentioned Pope Francis’ comments to the press about homosexuality while flying back from World Youth Day; that we should just allow them to live their lives as they want. I then pulled out the transcript of his comments (it is good to be near a computer when having these types of discussions).
Asked by a reporter:
‘I would like permission to ask a delicate question: another image that has been going around the world is that of Monsignor Ricca and the news about his private life. I would like to know, Your Holiness, what you intend to do about this? How are you confronting this issue and how does Your Holiness intend to confront the whole question of the gay lobby?’
His answer concluded with:
‘In this case, I conducted the preliminary investigation and we didn’t find anything. This is the first question. Then, you spoke about the gay lobby. So much is written about the gay lobby. I still haven’t found anyone with an identity card in the Vatican with “gay” on it. They say there are some there. I believe that when you are dealing with such a person, you must distinguish between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of someone forming a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. This one is not good. If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him? The problem is not having this tendency, no, we must be brothers and sisters to one another, and there is this one and there is that one. The problem is in making a lobby of this tendency: a lobby of misers, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of masons, so many lobbies. For me, this is the greater problem.’
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the message is clear, we are to proclaim the Gospel, in season and out. If we do not – we fail in the mission given to us by our Lord and Savior. Those who look at us as just another political faction trying to get the upper hand fail to understand both the intent and energy that drives us. We love everyone, we don’t defeat anyone. It is through love, Love himself, that we view the world, and help those who need it. We hold no ideological political battle flag, we raise up the wood of the cross. We proclaim the Gospel. If people around us try to legitimize (socially, politically, legally) something contra to the Gospel we stand our ground and speak our piece. But, nowhere do we attack a person. We are not called to embrace error and allow it to continue, love calls us to another path. We help, we point out, we discuss; we bring the Gospel message to those people.
This is has always been the path of a Christian, though we may fail in following it. But part of this path is to know our faith, understand what our shepherds are saying, and to do this we need to go to the source, their own words, unfiltered. You will be amazed at how similar the message is, regardless of the style in which it is delivered.