“God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him and love him.” [Pope Benedict, Christmas 2006]
The feast day of Sts Felicity and Perpetua was earlier this week; I was reading a translation of their passion – the two young mothers died for the faith in the arena in Carthage in the year 203. The record of their passion and death was written at the time – the first part by St Perpetua herself.
Their example should cause us to question how Catholic commentators should respond to vicious attacks on themselves, on God, and on the Church. One of the reasons I started blogging was that I saw so many Catholics let themselves and their Church down by being equally vicious. Even less edifying than the sight of a Catholic abusing an atheist in a combox is the sight of two Catholics at one another’s throats on points of Church liturgy, doctrine, or practice: The temptation to respond sharply to error, lies, and insults can be overwhelming; many a time I’ve written a stinging reply to a comment, and then deleted it without posting. Sometimes I’ve clicked post before taking time for that second thought – but I’ve never seen any good come from returning evil for evil – in blog posts or in real life.
How we should behave, of course, has been clear since the Crucifixion. We should respond as God responded to humankind on the Cross, and even before that, on that first Christmas – with a bottomless well of love.
Joanne from Egregious Twaddle has posted several times recently on this theme. In her latest post, she quotes St Augustine:
In an earlier time, St. Augustine captured the sense of what is required in civil discourse: “Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us. For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there be no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed.”
And Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin:
For too long the Church appeared in a role of moralisation and people failed to transmit the real depth of the Christian message which is about Jesus as a person who in his life and teaching reveals to us who God is. God is a God of love with whom we can in Jesus enter into a personal relationship, which then brings richness to the way we live of our lives.
She also links to Lisa Mladininich’s post on loving our fellow Catholics.
All pridefulness, including mine, wounds the Body of Christ, His Church. Us. And I will always, with God’s help, stand against error, endeavoring to write and teach in faithful submission to the Holy Father and to the Magisterium.
But I’m not fit to cast stones or make assumptions about motivation, character, and most especially the state of another person’s soul. I have had it with this conceptual separation from members of my family who also love with zeal, but might not see things the way I do.
I am parched and yearning for the only drink that can satisfy, to follow Jesus deeper into love, with all my inadequacies, depending totally on His grace. I’ve got to keep struggling to love all of my Catholic family. To let their indelibly, authentically Christian souls and the presence of the Great, Triune God who literally dwells in them, outweigh whatever issues threaten to divide us.
Because love is the thing.
Do liberal Democrats hate us because they are morally bankrupt babykillers who care more about buying the votes of the poor with entitlement programs than actually addressing real injustice? Or do they hate us because that is how we see and treat and dismiss them?
Do people who don’t experience themselves as heterosexual hate us because they are moral lepers, unnatural and disordered, who can never participate in committed relationships or family life? Or do they hate us because that is how we see and treat and dismiss them?
Do women hate us because they are second-rate humans who are envious of the male power they will never be able to possess, in the Church or in the world, and because they are essentially incapable of being anything other than an occasion of sexual sin unless they are consecrated virgins or married mothers? Or do they hate us because that is how we see and treat and dismiss them?
Do people of other faith traditions–or of no faith tradition whatsoever–hate us because their beliefs or lack of them are so pitifully inferior to our Truth that they have nothing to say to us? Or do they hate us because that is how we see and treat and dismiss them?
And how’s this for a Lenten challenge:
Maybe that’s what this New Evangelization thing is all about, and why this is all happening now. What difference would it make if our love were as public, as political, as visible and tactile, as headline-making, as undeniable as our principles? What if, instead of tithing mint and rue, we lived God’s infinite providence? What if we lifted burdens instead of laying them? What if new generations were to say, “See how these Christians love us all!”
If God–who is Love–is for us, it will be because we love as he does. And as Paul says, who could be against us then?