Sunday, August 14, 2016

Not Peace But A Sword: A Sunday Rumination

     Yes, yes, I know it’s been a while. To produce a Rumination, I need to be “in the mood” and “in the groove” simultaneously. Those conditions don’t intersect as often as I’d like. If you look forward to these faith-oriented pieces, Gentle Reader, I’m sorry to have to tell you so.

     But today, as they say at the hot dog stand, we have a wiener:

     I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. [Luke 12:49-53]

     Alternately, from Matthew:

     Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. [Matthew 10:32-35]

     These passages cause quite a lot of Christians a kind of spiritual heartburn. I can easily understand it; they once had the same effect on me. Over time I learned better, for I learned to accept the Gospels as a whole rather than as snippets that can be misinterpreted. Viewed holistically, there’s no conflict between Jesus’s proclamations above and the other, gentler dispensations of the Prince of Peace. However, there are some mighty large crevices between His statements – emphatically including the ones above – and some of the teachings we hear from contemporary clerics.

     My parish – St. Louis de Montfort, 75 New York Avenue, Sound Beach, NY; Monsignor Christopher Heller, pastor; all contributions gratefully accepted – is afflicted with a “weekend assistant” who’s done considerable damage to the Catholic faith. I’ll call him Father X. (As it happens, that’s his middle initial. Why yes, his first name is Francis; however did you guess? Yes, yes, his last name is Pizzarelli, but how irrelevant can you get?)

     Father X’s offenses against Catholicism and Christianity generally are legion. In particular:

  • He routinely conducts a non-standard Mass;
  • He’s often referred to God as “Father and Mother;”
  • He’s referred to the Ten Commandments as “interesting guidelines;”
  • His homilies are often laced with his politics – and yes, they’re left-liberal politics;
  • He frequently promotes himself and his emphases at the expense of the words of the Redeemer.

     In what variant of Christianity, other than the Marxist-Leninist “liberation theology” rampant in South America, is such conduct acceptable from a priest of Christ?

     Consider the words of the Gospel passages cited above. Nothing could be plainer than the message therein: Even within their own families, Christians will be hated and persecuted for their Christianity. Yet Father X characterized them as exhortations to compassion and inclusion.

     Father X frequently harps on compassion. He’s called the Lord’s Prayer a prayer for compassion. He’s said outright that compassion was at the heart of Jesus’s mission on Earth. Is there any slightest possibility that this heavily educated Montfortian priest knows the definition of compassion?

     compassion n: Literally, suffering with another; a sensation of sorrow excited by the distress or misfortunes of another; pity; commiseration.

     One who strives to use words according to their exact meanings, as I do, should be appalled at the idea that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and Redeemer of Mankind, who took the weight of all our sins, from one end of time to the other, on His own shoulders so that we might be spared the penalty for them, actually wants us to suffer.

     But that’s Father X for you.

     Jesus told us quite plainly in the Gospel passages cited above that there will be division and strife between those who accept Him and His New Covenant and those who don’t. This forecast has proved correct over the centuries. Sometimes, bad and misguided Christians have been the instigators of such strife. Such a hundred eighty degree divergence from Christ’s teachings cannot be adequately condemned. But strife there has been and will be, until Mankind is no more.

     The sword appears to be everywhere today: between nations, between races, between ethnicities, between occupations, between communities, between husbands and wives, and between parents and children. Where, then, lies the peace we seek?

     The late Clarence Carson put it memorably in the conclusion to his volume The Flight From Reality:

     To say that every man shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, to couple this with plowshares and pruning hooks, is a way of saying, I think, that every man should tend to his own plot of land. Or: we shall have peace when each man tends to his own plot. There is great wisdom for us in this. The flight from reality has taken us into a way of thinking which justifies every man trying to tend every other man’s plot of land. The sword has been taken to force people to do what others think they should. Meddlesomeness, busybodyness, do-goodism have been linked with the sword to produce the turmoil of our times....

     Such meaning as there is to life on this earth is found in tending our own plot of ground, in tasting the fruits of our own labors, in developing our own skills and perceptions, in sharing with others freely, in doing that which is appropriate to our talents, in striving to fulfill our ideals for ourselves, in the pleasure of a job well done, in the company of friends we have chosen and who have chosen us, in bringing up our own children, in short, in sitting under our own vine and fig tree.

     It is so, says the Prophet, “for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.” Each of us makes his own return to reality when he concludes with the poet:

     In His will is our peace.

     It cannot be put better than that.

     In summation, Christ, Who said He brought “not peace but a sword,” was not an apostle of compassion, but of repentance and forgiveness freely given to those who would accept it. The very idea was horrendous to the religious authorities of His day, for guilt and fear were the instruments with which they kept the people in submission. When you can’t even remember all 613 “commandments,” there’s no possibility of conforming to them all; thus, every Jew of that era could be kept perpetually in anxiety about his standing with God. Christ’s emphasis of the Decalogue, and the two Great Commandments upon which the Ten rest, swept away the Sanhedrin’s presumption of the authority to judge and condemn. Why else would they have wanted Him dead?

     There you have it, folks: twelve simple, clear, inherently just prescriptions and proscriptions. Seven virtues to be practiced each day, to reinforce the twelve. Decency, courtesy, and the appropriate focus upon our own vines and fig trees, with charity toward those among us who fall hard through no fault of their own. That’s Christianity for you. Not the prattlings of self-promoters who can’t see a camera or a microphone without rushing to get in front of it. And “compassion” – suffering along with others – ain’t got nothin’ to do with it.

     May God bless and keep you all!

1 comment:

RichJ said...

I enjoy your Sunday ruminations. Today's was no exception.

Regarding "there’s no conflict between Jesus’s proclamations above and the other, gentler dispensations of the Prince of Peace", I totally agree. The most well known verse in the Gospels, the one often seen on a placard behind home plate on a televised baseball game, John 3:16, gives a concise explanation... these quotes from Dhouey Rheims Bible at the gutenberg web site:

John 3:16. For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son:
that whosoever believeth in him may not perish, but may have life

Non believers who fail to do God's will (see also 1 John 2:17) are in a bad position (i.e., the sword is coming as Matthew records in Francis' piece today). Peter elaborates:

2 Peter 3:9. The Lord delayeth not his promise, as some imagine, but dealeth
patiently for your sake, not willing that any should perish, but that
all should return to penance,

3:10. But the day of the Lord shall come as a thief, in which the
heavens shall pass away with great violence and the elements shall be
melted with heat and the earth and the works which are in it shall be
burnt up.

3:11. Seeing then that all these things are to be dissolved, what
manner of people ought you to be in holy conversation and godliness?

3:12. Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of the Lord,
by which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements
shall melt with the burning heat?

3:13. But we look for new heavens and a new earth according to his
promises, in which justice dwelleth.

For those who want a life everlasting on the new earth mentioned in verse 13, it is time as John 3:16 suggests... "return to pennance." Similarly in 2 John 2:17, "but he that doth the will of God abideth for ever."