Joseph: I forgot what I was supposed to tell him.
Jules:Oh, well tell him he should on no account try to open that cage. Tell him because if he does try to and puts his hand inside of the cage to find out what’s there, he’s liable to be disagreeably surprised.[laughs] Tell him, well that there’s a deadly poisonous snake inside, of the cage. Tell him. [Joseph leaves the room & Re-enters a few seconds later] You didn’t tell him!
Joseph: He knows already.
We’re No Angels 1955
The great Synod Debate continues and my Friend Elizabeth Scalia has reached a point of frustration:
My dear synod fathers, my dear co-religionists, I am a nobody and am the first to admit it—I am shocked to hear myself ask this question. But what if Christ Jesus is rolling his eyes at us because we are still wondering whether people should disperse and go find bread elsewhere, when the True Bread is before us and abundant? What if, as the debate rages over whose hands are clean enough to eat the Food that cannot defile, he is sighing and asking us, “Do you still not understand?”
As have her critics:
That the long-settled question regarding the presentation of Holy Communion to notorious, unrepentant sinners is even up for discussion at this Synod is a tragic scandal. But for this consideration to be promoted by a prominent Catholic writer who has a reputation for orthodoxy? Ms. Scalia … please retract your article.
I very much understand both of their frustrations because the sin they are warning against is spiritual pride, It a sin that terrifies me because it’s an easy sin to fall into and feels so warm on the skin until like Adolph the poisonous snake in the movie it bites you.
Cousin Paul: Still in all I’d feel better if I had a doctor look at it.
Joseph: He Says he’d feel better if a doctor looked at it.
Jules: Oh, He wants to send for a doctor
Albert: Tell him to save his money.
Joseph: He says to save your money that’s good advice take my word for it.
Cousin Paul: I guess you’re right, it stung at first but now I don’t feel a thing
That’s the nature of spiritual pride, it bites for a second but before you know it you don’t feel a thing. And spiritual pride comes in multiple flavors both being too rigid to see the possibilities and being too willing to bend the rules are two sides of the same coin, but I think the best answer to both comes from the Gospel of Luke:
At that time some people who were present there told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
He said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. (So) cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.'”
This passage is telling. The first paragraph reminds everyone that salvation isn’t like running away from a bear where you just have to be faster than the guy behind you. Being right on the issue of the Eucharist or having mercy in the heart isn’t going to be enough to get it done. It’s about finishing the race with Christ at the finish line.
The second paragraph parable reminds us that those who are stuck in mortal sin are worth the extra effort to help them out but it also says something more.
Note what the gardener does in trying to save the fig tree, He cultivates the ground around it, he fertilizes it. He doesn’t do anything extraordinary, anything miraculous, he uses the regular methods of any gardener he just gives this tree a little more extra personal attention because that’s what it needs.
Michael Hickborn is correct about not being too keen play fast and loose with the rules. This is well founded remember what a tiny exception did to the protestants at Lambeth in 1930 and we have all seen results of the spin of Vatican II for those whose goals were to change the faith.
Meanwhile Elizabeth Scalia is correct that the call of God to an individual is subtle and we MUST be willing to cultivate and fertilize the ground around them so the call can bear fruit because that is the bottom line of Christianity, the salvation of individual souls. I suspect each of us can tell a story like Elizabeth’s of a person finding the faith and as the Holy Spirit told Peter. “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.”
However the difference between cultivating and coddling is the difference between a person hearing God calling despite their sins, and a person calling God out demanding what he considers his due. It’s the difference between the synod looking for a way to enable those who seek God’s mercy and enabling those who seeking the world’s agenda.
Closing thought, one of my favorite movies is the 1955 classic We’re no Angels. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray and Peter Ustinov as three escaped Devil’s island convicts who come to a house and shop to rob it to aid their escape but find themselves instead coming to the aid of the honest husband his devoted wife and their Daughter accidentally causing the end of their tormentors leaving the parents rich and the daughter with a fine young doctor as a suitor and in the end rather than board the boat and escape decide to turn themselves in. The final scene show them walking away back to the camera with halos appearing over their heads.
It’s how God sometimes works, slowly and subtly until in the end they do the right thing.
People who want to find God, who are seeking mercy will find it, it might take a lifetime but they’ll get there. Those who are looking to justify themselves for their own power, their own glory or to bring down the church will fail in all those counts because that’s how the Holy Spirit works and as Christ said when it comes to his church the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.
I’m a big fan in the truths of the church, we should have faith in this one.
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