Sunday, September 4, 2011

Two Quotes of the Day: From a Prophet and a Pope

The First Reading for September 4th, 2011:

Thus says the LORD:
You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel;
when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me. If I tell the wicked, "O wicked one, you shall surely die, " and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt,
but I will hold you responsible for his death.
But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way,
and he refuses to turn from his way,
he shall die for his guilt,
but you shall save yourself.

This is it! This is the Lord's message to today's Christian leaders; which not only includes the clergy and teachers but fathers and mothers as well. Out of compassion for souls, out of a deep concern for their salvation, we are called to "speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way." This means we have to speak about the negative; perhaps drawing unwanted attention to sin and error. In doing so, we shall, according to Sunday's first reading, have saved ourselves.

Perhaps in recent decades we have not done this. We have felt compelled to be positive and optimistic (with a smile on our face) by affirming the good but we go no further. Scripture, however, bids us to do more. We are called by God to be watchmen; to warn people of evil in addition to affirming the good. Perhaps the dereliction to do this is one important reason why the Catholic Church has virtually lost Western Civilization to Secularism.

Unfortunately, it is a common saying among Christians today that they would rather "light a candle rather than curse the darkness." The "rather than" has been our albatross. No doubt, these words are pleasant to the ears and even sound high-minded. But, in fact, our Lord did both, the Apostles did both, the Church Fathers did both, the Saints did both and in today's first reading, Our Lord tells Ezekiel to do both; that is "warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way." The preaching the Good News and accepting it presupposes that people know of the bad news. Without knowing the "bad news," the Good News is hardly desirable. Furthermore, ushering in of God's kingdom not only involves accepting Christ as Savior but it also necessitates the expulsion of the Evil One; a kind of exorcism, if you will. Jesus Christ himself makes this clear in the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 18). And this same Lord, through the prophet Ezekiel, is equally emphatic on this point!

A caution to Christians: To "speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way," to light a candle as well as cursing the darkness, will be labeled as divisive, hateful and unChristian. But don't believe a word of it! Do it anyways!The Scripture readings for September 4th, 2011 (including the Gospel reading from Matthew 18) should be evidence enough that such is not the case. God's admonition to the prophet Ezekiel to warn the wicked of their sins is not only confirmed by Jesus Christ himself, but it still stands today as something to be carried out.

Consider a passage from the early 20th century letter to Catholic bishops by Pope Benedict XV, "On Preaching the Word" in 1917

They [preachers and teachers of the Word] must diffuse the light of truth made known by God, and in those who hear them they must quicken and nourish the supernatural life. In a word, by seeking the salvation of souls they are to promote the glory of God. As it would, therefore, be wrong to call anyone a doctor who does not practice medicine, or to style anyone a professor of some art who does not teach that art, he who in his preaching neglects to lead men to a fuller knowledge of God and on the way of eternal salvation may be called an idle declaimer, but not a preacher of the Gospel...

But since among the truths revealed by God there are some which frighten the weakness of our corrupt nature, and which therefore are not calculated to attract the multitude, they carefully avoid them, and treat themes, in which, the place accepted, there is nothing sacred. Not seldom it happens that in the very midst of a discourse upon the things of eternity, they turn to politics, particularly if any questions of this kind just then deeply engross the minds of their hearers. They seem to have only one aim, to please their hearers and curry favor with those whom St. Paul describes as "having itching ears."