Oh Lord, purify me, make me a chalice in which you dwell, offer your sacrifice in me and spread your love through me. Let me shine like gold, adorn me with the jewels of virtue that I may always be open to you. Fill me. Overflow me. Let me be like that most perfect vessel, the Singular Vessel of Devotion, She to whom I cry for protection against the Evil One. I ask this for your glory, for the vessel is nothing without the sustenance inside, the cup nothing unless it is filled. Oh Lord, purify me.

Give me a word, Abba

Monday, July 1, 2013

Does truth offend?

Oftentimes, we humans hear something that someone says and react with offence. Sometimes it is a politician who says that rape victims can not conceive. Sometimes it is a priest who says that the doctrines of the church must be updated to address the needs of the world. Sometimes it is a magazine who says it eschews labels. Sometimes it is a theologian who says that we are all sinners.

Some of these things may actually be offensive, and thus our offence is proper, but let us look further as to how we respond to this offense. When the politician remarks on rape, do we immediately discredit everything he stands for? Does he become the cone of shame around the platform of his party? When a priest dismisses doctrine, do we immediately flee from the sacraments he performs? Do we seek out other priests, ones we KNOW will give us Christ fully? Do we spread rumors about the priest in order to diminish his reputation and move people to our side?

We do all these things and more. It is natural to over-react to offence, to extend our offence at words to offence at a person. We let the person become the enemy. We make what they do define who they are in full. Not that what someone does is not directly related to who they are, but it is certainly not the whole picture. If we allow one thing that a person does define the rest of their activity and their existence, we would not get very far in interacting with anyone.

As we all know (and St. Augustine reaffirms in the opening chapters of "City of God"), we are all sinners and to some degree all deserve punishment for our offence against God and against our neighbour. We ought to correct each other in charity and strive to correct ourselves first of all, but we must not let our sins or the sins of others get in the way of our love for them.

And we must especially be prepared to listen to the truth they have to tell us, even if one aspect makes us uncomfortable or is in itself untrue. For example, St. Augustine is pretty hard on marriage, calling those who are married "weaker," which for those who are married can attest, it's not weak work. Plus, so many of those called to the "higher" vocation turn out to be much weaker and fall much harder than those who are married. The wording of St. Augustine might (and does) offend many people, yours truly included. However, the correct response is not to reject everything St. Augustine says as being the blatherings of an old cynical repressed man from the 4th century. We should try to understand what he says and why he says it. Then we should distinguish those teachings that are true from those opinions he holds that are offensive. Is it truly offensive, or are we just being sensitive? If the latter, we need to re-examine ourselves before we reject a Saint of the Church. Otherwise we risk alienating ourselves from the sound teaching of the Church and through it the Love of God.

We all do this, separate ourselves from truth because of the bearer of the truth. We must remember that the truth does not depend on who tells is. The truth is eternal and fixed. Christ is the Truth and he speaks through even the roughest most uncouth instruments. It is up to us to let our eyes see the Truth and let it transform our perception of the messenger so that we might see him or her as God does.

No comments: