The women from the local churches had begun to picket the hotel that had recently hired strippers. Some outraged people wanted to condemn all of the owners of the hotel without ever talking with them. Meanwhile, the young man came to me to formally resign as a Eucharistic minister because he owned a share in the hotel.
I asked, “Did you have a part in arranging for the strippers?” He replied, “No, I opposed it! I still oppose it. I bring it up at every meeting. But I am a minority shareholder and they overrule me.” I refused to accept his resignation! I affirmed him as an upstanding Catholic and asked him to continue to speak his truth at the shareholders’ meetings.
During the United Farm Workers boycott under Cesar Chavez some supporters started shouting, “Down with the ranchers!” I asked, “Which ranchers?” “All ranchers!” they replied. I asked, “Even the ones who are treating their workers well and responding to their concerns?”
Frequently I hear about Christians who want to condemn other Christians who do not appear to be following “the law” as they understand it. But sometimes things are not quite as they appear. Sometimes our own past history, our current hurts, and our fears for our future influence how we interpret what we see. It is much easier to name, proclaim, and blame the faults of others than to acknowledge our own hurts and failings.
To the extent we find ourselves becoming enraged, losing control of our language or our actions in outbursts of fury, provoking dissention or factions we are demonstrating works of the flesh which Saint Paul suggests result in loss of the Kingdom of God. Jesus cries “Woe!” to those who impose on people burdens hard to carry but (who) do not lift one finger to touch them.
The test of our right relationship with Christ is our control over our passions and desires which is evidenced by our patience, kindness and gentleness to others and the attitude of love, joy and peace which others are able to discern in the manner of our presence. And the fullness of the Law is Love!
- Fr. John M. Lee, C.P., is Retreat Director at Bishop Molloy Retreat House, “The Passionist Spiritual Center in New York City”. www.bishopmolloy.org