Friday, May 20, 2011

Separating the Faithful from the Unfaithful II

Mediocrity and compromise characterize the lives of many Christians. Many read the same novels as modern pagans, educate their children in the same godless way, listen to the same commentators who have no other standard than judging today by yesterday and tomorrow by today, allow pagan practices such as divorce and remarriage to creep into the family…

There is no longer any conflict and opposition which is supposed to characterize us. We are influencing the world less than the world is influencing us.

Bishop Fulton Sheen, Communism and the Conscience of the West


Not all unity is good:

The prevailing tendency among many Christians today is pursue unity and harmony at all costs. Anything which contradicts or undermines this pursuit is deemed to be unchristian. However, the Catholic Church never set this up as an end in itself. Unity, as taught by the Church, is consequence of our communion with Christ under the Fatherhood of God. Without this communion, real unity- the kind that benefits mankind –is impossible. What is too often overlooked is that unity is dependent upon Christ’s mission to divide; that is, separate the dividers (worldly Christians who dissent) from those who unite (faithful Christians who obey). He said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.” (Matthew 10:34) The ultimate purpose of his sword is to divide and separate the sheep from the goats, the faithful from the unfaithful. (Matthew 25) To the extent the sheep are set apart from the goats the unity among the sheep is strengthened and made visible.

In the end, every soul will either belong to heaven or hell. The path to these two eternal destinations finds its beginning in our earthly lives. Indeed, when the people of God are distinct and set apart from the people of world, these two paths are more clearly discerned. To repeat what our Lord said to his disciples: “I have chosen you out of the world.” This divine calling of being set apart is traced out in the Old Testament but is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Biblical background of separating good from evil:

Throughout biblical history, God frowned upon the indiscriminate unity of good and evil. The reason for this was due to the fact that goodness and truth always suffered loss when intermingled with evil and falsehood.

In the previous post we started with the separation of light (angels) and darkness (fallen angels) on the first day of creation. This separation was to anticipate the last day of the world when the children of light and the children of darkness were to be separated on Judgment Day. This sword of division was not only put to the angels; no, its divisive effect was also applied to humanity. After Adam and Eve disobeyed the divine command in Paradise, the Lord cast them out signifying the separation between his holiness and sinful humanity. And this disobedience, from within the human family, would pit brother against brother and tribe against tribe.

Still, the rupture between God and man was not yet complete. The first-born son Cain, who killed his brother Abel, was the patriarch of the unfaithful- of those people who turned their back on God. And Seth, the God-fearing man and the third-born son who replaced Abel, was the one who inherited God’s blessing. The descendants of Cain were known as the “Daughters of Men” and the descendants of Seth were known as the “Sons of God.” In Genesis 6, the Sons of God, the Lord’s chosen, married into the godless race of Cain. This intermarriage and indiscriminate mingling of the good and the evil was an occasion for widespread moral corruption. With this, the Lord punished the human race by not only flooding the earth but by withdrawing his Spirit.

Then in Genesis chapter 11, the human race, speaking one language at the time, decided to initiate a great enterprise by constructing the Tower of Babel. Noteworthy, however, was the command given to Noah’s family immediately after exiting the ark to be fruitful and multiply and to “fill the earth.” Instead, the descendants of Noah united in one central location in order to make a name for themselves by building the tower. Evidently, God did not look kindly on this enterprise. In fact, he intervened so as to disperse it. Perhaps the following passage from the Canticle of Mary in the Gospel of Luke was a reference to this historic intervention by God: “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.” (1:51) The Tower of Babel was one story out of many in the bible that illustrated God’s displeasure with an indiscriminate unity of the good and the bad, the faithful and the unfaithful.

After the calling of Abraham and the founding of the nation of Israel by Moses, the people of God would have to learn this lesson over and over again. In fact, the fall of King Solomon and the impending collapse of the Kingdom of Israel was due to him marrying hundreds of wives from foreign nations; most of whom worshiped pagan gods. To accommodate them, he ended up building temples to these gods. Throughout the centuries up to the time of Christ the kings of Judah and Israel (originally one nation) struggled mightily with the sin of that wrong kind of unity- the unity of the believers in Yahweh with the people of pagan religions. When the Jews and their leaders failed to set themselves apart from their pagan neighbors they invariably fell into idolatry. The world was all the more under the shadow of death.

The cause of unity: separating the faithful from the unfaithful

Although the New Covenant Church under Christ, that is, the Catholic Church, is universal in nature; although it is international in that it excludes no nation, race or class of people, her unity and oneness, nevertheless, is best expressed when the fidelity to all of Christ’s teachings is a condition of belonging to the Church. The insistence by the Catholic hierarchy of the Church that all Catholics be totally faithful to Jesus Christ has been the general standard in the last two millennia. If this fidelity is absent and if infidelity is tolerated, then St. Paul’s mandate to be “one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” is all but impossible. This can only be achieved by a unity of faithful believers in Creed and observers of divine law. To repeat, the knowledge between God and the devil, between good and evil, between happiness and misery, will prevail as long as that line which distinguished the faithful from the unfaithful was clearly established.