Remember when you were a child, and you fell off your bike? It hurt, and you
may have ruined your clothes in the dirt. Going home in both fear and sorrow
(it hurt and you looked like a mess), your mother comforted you. Checking to
see that you were alright and cleaning up your wounds. She probably gave you
an earful about being careful, reminding you that it could be much worse.
And reminding you to avoid making the same mistake again. She didn't say you
couldn't ride your bike again, but to do so responsibly, being careful to
follow all the rules of the road and riding a bike. Imagine your 'friends'
who told you to forget it. That you should ignore anything told you, just
have fun. And if you did do as your mother told you, you were a Momma's boy,
a little goody goody. The labels thrown at you by your peers could sting
into your soul.
The Church is our Mother, with God as our Father. She's there to clean
us up, and comfort us when we 'fall off our bikes'. But there's a number of
people who would call that being a 'goody, goody'. She doesn't say we can't,
but rather to do so responsibly, recalling and following the rules set down
by God, our Father.
G. K. Chesterton wrote: "The truth is, of course, that the curtness of
the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a
religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter
to state the things forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because
most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden."
(Illustrated London News; 1-3-20)
Money, sexuality, food, etc. are all good, when used properly as God
intended. But this freedom is called slavery by some, claiming that their's
is the better way, exchanging hope for despair, the truth for a lie, and
calling THAT freedom.
On one of the cable channels (C-Span I think), there was a press
conference concerning some people who claimed to have left the homosexual
lifestyle. They didn't attack homosexuals, didn't condemn them to eternal
damnation, nor advocate their deaths, just reported that they, and others,
have been able to change. Immediately following that press conference,
another was held, in the same room. The rebuttal by various gay and lesbian
groups. Their conference seemed intent on attacking those who had just
finished holding their press conference. The labels flew fast and furious.
Homophobic, ignorant, etc.
Now I'm not going to get into which group was right but what I noticed
was difference in attitude. One offered hope, the other, despair.
Sin can affect various people in various ways. Mother Angelica wrote
about the difference between the saint, the sinner, and the average person.
The sinner, falling into a mud puddle (sin) relishes in it. He can't think
of anything better, wallowing around and thoroughly enjoying themselves.
The average person sits in the mud puddle, bemoaning his fate. They're
upset with falling into it, wondering what they could have done to avoid it.
They sit there, brooding over it.
The saint, seeing himself in the mud puddle, picks himself up (or asks for
help getting up), gets themselves cleaned up, and resolves to try and avoid
that puddle in the future.
Let's expound on this a bit. The sinner, seeing the average person
visibly upset, goes over and tried to convince him that there's nothing
wrong. That they shouldn't upset themselves, but should enjoy themselves.
The saint, seeing the same thing, goes over and tries to help the person get
up from the mud. Whereupon he is set on for making the person feel bad, for
not letting him remain in the mud.
Now, let's go back to that press conference. A number of people, many
associated with Courage (the Catholic homosexual support organization) have
stated that they have given up the homosexual lifestyle. Or at least have
controlled it, to live according to the Church's teachings. But immediately,
groups such as Dignity, go on the offensive. They claim there's nothing wrong with
engaging in homosexuality, those who feel guilt for doing so should throw
off their guilt, their conscience, and embrace it.
Courage offered hope that it may be possible for at least some to put off
their sexual compulsion, or at least live with their sexuality in accordance
to God's law. The other offered despair, that there was nothing they could
do about it.
Those who have 'conquered' their sins (through God's help) have been
some of the greatest saints in our history. St. Augustine was very happy
within the Gnostics. His mother, St. Monica, prayed for his conversion. And
he even noted, in a prayer (of sorts), that he wanted to know and love God,
just not right away. The sexual excesses of the Gnostics were well known and
St. Augustine was enjoying them. However, upon coming to faith, he knew the
lie behind their 'knowledge', having been a party to it. He was the perfect
instrument to expose them to the faithful.
St. Paul himself was such an instrument. Seeing Christianity as a
threat, he set out to end it by force. We can presume from the Scriptures
that he had, at least, a hand in the martyrdom of Stephen. And since he was
noted as a strong enemy of the Church, we can also presume that he was at
least partially responsible for the deaths of many other martyrs.
But; "For several days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And in
the synagogues immediately he proclaimed Jesus, saying, 'He is the Son of
God.' And all who heard him were amazed, and said, 'Is not this the man who
made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called on this name? And he has come
here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests.' But
Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in
Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ" (Acts 9:19-22).
Now that had to be some witness. The person who actively attacked the
Church was now one of it's staunchest supporters.
St. Francis of Assisi was renown for his being a party animal. He was
often declared the 'king of the revels' by his friends. No one could throw a
party, or have a great time as much as Francis Bernadone. Yet, he knew he
was missing the truth. Many think that St. Francis' conversion came when our
Lord spoke to him through the cross at San Damiano. But from his
biographies, we see that Christ brought him about slowly. Over time,
everything that he once held dear and enjoyable became unbearable to him.
The person who, only a short time before, sought glory in battle and
commerce, who lived a life of eat, drink, and be merry, was now extolling the
virtues of penance and conversion; calling for all people to turn back to
None of the three who I've touched on, as well as countless others, were
instantly accepted. St. Paul, St. Augustine, and St. Francis were all called
traitors, mad, etc. They were reviled and hated. In some cases, they sought
to even kill them.
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are
not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates
you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than
his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you; if they kept My
word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on My
account, because they do not know Him who sent Me" (John 15:18-21).
Now many may tell you that this is not true, not wise. That the wise way
is the popular way. To say homosexuality, gluttony, lust, and greed are sins
is hateful, ignorance. We're just not with it they say. Self control and sacrifice are outmoded and ignorant
ways of thinking. To that we say:
"Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise
in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom
of this world is folly with God. For it is written, 'He catches the wise in
their craftiness,' and again, 'The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise
are futile.' So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, whether
Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the
future, all are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's" (1 Corinthians 3:
Holding to the truth has never been popular, nor easy. It isn't hate to
call a sin a sin. We all sin, we've all fallen short of the glory of God.
We can either bemoan our fate, and wallow in guilt, or we can turn to a
merciful God, knowing His love and trusting in His mercy to forgive us our
inadequacies. We can relish in our sin and refuse to answer God's call to
repentance (guilt), or we can joyfully go to our Heavenly Father, to be
cleaned of our failings and rejoice in His love.
The Church offers us Christ's hope and love, the world offers us doom and despair.
Which would you choose?
Pax Christi, Pat