Sunday, July 14, 2013

Rumor is not your friend

I had an interesting interior experience recently.  It was very enlightening.

A priest friend asked if I were still happy about Pope Francis. I said I thought he was awesome.

This priest responded that he wasn’t so sure, and had questions.

I asserted that the new pope is great because he’s the new pope, and is a man of integrity, faith and learning.

This priest indicated that he had heard rumors about potential appointments the new pope would make to various Vatican offices.

I asserted that whatever decisions may be made probably wouldn’t affect him in his celebration of Mass. 

This pastor of souls more or less accused me of being naïve.

I asked if he wanted the benefit of the doubt from his parishioners that he was not affording the new pope.

He asked if I thought he were that shallow. I didn’t respond directly…

Then he said something along the lines of, “I don’t think he (Pope Francis) is up to the task.”

I found this shocking, since no one is up to that task, and wasn’t quite sure who this pastor thought would be so great that all would be beautiful and perfect in the Church.

Then, thinking about this, and after hearing from another priest about rumors of things to come, I googled certain words, and found a webpage or two with rumors about supposed future appointments by the new Pope. They were not happy posts/news articles.  It was disturbing, if such things go through.

Then, I went back to reading the new encyclical, Lumen Fidei.  I only had about ¼ left to read. I found that I was internally disturbed to the point that I was annoyed by what I was reading.  It was a feeling that I could not shake until I realized what I had done: allowed the negativity of rumor to affect my affective, interior life, to the point that I found a beautiful document by the Pope to be annoying.

Rumor was never considered a friend of man. It is more of a spiritual infection that passes from mouth to ear (webpage to eye?) and creates division and angst.  Flee from it.  The truth, not rumor, will set you free.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Did Jesus mention homosexuality?

                Yes, it’s true.  Jesus never mentions homosexuality in any place in the gospels.  He condemns all sorts of other sins by name: murder, fornication, greed, speaking falsehoods, willful blindness, anger, adultery. . . among others.  Some use this lack of a specific condemnation as evidence that Jesus was “okay” with it.  I’m not sure how they come to that conclusion. It evinces the desire of some to gain approval for the activity, especially in the name of “love”.  But there are many sins that Jesus does not mention by name: pedophilia, necrophilia, suicide.  I do not think He was for any of those.

                What is interesting is that Jesus spells out what marriage is.  During His time, divorce was allowed and an acceptable practice, based upon Moses’ teaching that a man could give his wife a writ of divorce if she should not be pleasing to him, though he was forbidden under Mosaic Law from remarrying her if her second husband also found her unpleasing.  The Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce to “test” Him, probably because He was then in the region beyond the Jordan where John the Baptist had been preaching when arrested by Herod.  Of course, John had criticized Herod for divorcing his wife and marrying Herodias, the wife of his brother.  The Pharisees may have wanted to get Jesus into trouble with Herod as well.

                Jesus responded: “He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one?”  So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’ “ (Mt. 19:4-6).  This is a very clear definition of what marriage is according to the mind of Christ.  It should settle the matter for any believing Christian.

                Yet, they persist.

                What I find particularly interesting is how Jesus deals with the Torah and the various prescriptions and precepts found there. He is quite clear that His intention is not to do away with the Old Law, but to fulfill it. How does He do this? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus mentions several commandments, and how in His teaching (“But what I say to you is. . .”) the root of the commandments is found not in the sinful external action, but even deeper in the heart and intentions of the person.  So, murder is wrong, but anger is just as bad; adultery is wrong, but lust might as well be the same thing.  Jesus’ intention is to bring forth the true dignity of the human person and how holy we must be if we are to inherit the Kingdom.  Our very inner thoughts and intentions must be in line with the justice and holiness of the Father.  The “burden” of the Gospel is much more profound than the external observance of a set of laws. Of course, the other side of the Gospel is that Jesus provides the grace by which we can indeed become the holiness of God.

                Jesus goes even further, though, for His Gospel is one of mercy.  So while He intensifies the commandments to include interior intentions, He also removes a lot from the Old Law. He does away with dietary restrictions, for it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out of him. He gets rid of purification precepts as unnecessary. The idea that monetary success is evidence of God’s favor no longer applies, for “Blessed are the poor” and “how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” And finally, Jesus takes away stoning as a punishment for sin.  It is in line with His plan to bring mercy to the world, and to leave the final judgment up to the end of the world.  This is a good thing to mention to those atheists who mention the punishments of the Old Testament as a reason to get rid of memorials of the Ten Commandments. 

                So it is true that Jesus does not mention homosexuality in any list of sins. But given the fact that He insisted on sexual purity, of mind, body and soul; that marriage is a union of man and woman; and that at no point did He change the Old Testament teaching on the sinfulness of homosexual activity, we can safely conclude that it is and shall remain a sin, even in the dispensation of Christ.  A worse sin is not accepting His teaching and all it entails.  As He told the city of Capernaum: “If the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.”