There are those of us who know that there are certain sins among those that we call "mortal" or "grievous" because we find their description as such in Sacred Scripture. The past Sunday (October 26, 2008), the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the first reading described one of these grievous, mortal sins. The Church presented this description to us as being in direct opposition to the lesson that Jesus was about to give to the sarcastic scholar who asked what the greatest law of all was.
"34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, 36 "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" 37 He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and the first commandment. 39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." (Matt. 22; 34-40)
The scholar of the law should have known the answer. In fact, Jesus knew the answer because it appears in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verse 5 "Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength." Jesus added the fulfillment sentence that He came to earth to deliver, about loving your neighbor. We have the same trouble with this saying of Jesus that the scholar of the law did. It is really a hard-nosed law. There are not too many teachers of scripture and homilists who have the courage to
confront the true meaning of this expectation that God has of us. It just happens that the first reading of this Sunday showed us just how high God has set the bar in this area of love of neighbor.
Thus says the LORD:"You shall not molest or oppress an alien,for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.
"If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him. If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate."(Ex 22:20-26)
How's that for crying out to God for vengeance? These are sins that today occur every day our world. They are right up there with the others that are found in the Scripture: Murder, sodomy and the withholding of wages. How often do we offer prayers of intercession for these grievous sins? How often to we even think about them? How often have they been spelled out from the pulpit? How often have they been uttered in the same breath as abortion? Even abortion has a special niche in our lives...September and October of every election year. Along with sexual
misbehavior, homosexuality (sodomy) included, we have our moral map handed to us when it comes time to vote. It's almost as though voting against pro-abortion politicians is the one sacrificial act that can bring us justification. What do we do the rest of the year? We hope and pray that the killing will stop and that a miracle will happen that will cause the change of the law. We already know that this is a sin that cries out to God for vengeance. We pray that we will see the day when His wrath will be manifest. In the meantime we shake our heads and wonder how to attack this monster. And what if the anti-abortionist is pro-sodomy and negligent of the blue collar, or "no collar" worker? What if the anti-abortionist has an international policy that has war as the answer to most problems?
It is unfortunate that our narrow minded, one issue attitude envelops us so tightly that we cannot be creative enough to apply other tactics to the problem than to vote against the pro-abortion candidate. This attitude sends us down the path of voting for some well accomplished dunces. We are encouraged to vote for those who would listen to our holier-than-thou preaching about one sin while forgetting the terrible destruction that can be wreaked by an accumulation of other criminal behaviors that bring us to our knees and cause more abortions to take place because of the despair that the anti-abortionist causes. We have a hard time making the pious ones see that the pro-abortion whiz could construct a community that would be more at peace with itself, therefore making abortion less desirable in times of moral difficulty. We are made to believe that abortion is the gravest sin committed by our society. I think that there is room for discussion there. I happen to have a corner of my conscience that says that the sin of electing an anti-abortionist who presents a strong probability of destroying the fabric of the entire country is just as grave, if not worse. Running the country into despair would only cause a lot more sin to be committed, including more abortion. While it is true that running a country to the brink of despair is not classified as a sin that cries out to God for vengeance, it nevertheless would be close enough to satisfy me.
Let's get back to the answer that Jesus gave to the scholar of the law. Jesus did not tell him to avoid any of the 630 precepts of Jewish Law. He quoted Scripture. He quoted the law of love as found in chapter 6, verse 5 of Deuteronomy, "Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength." Then, to fulfill the will of His Father and to complete the dictate of His Mission he added, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt. 22; 39)
How many of us look for the candidate who most closely lives the tenet of love in his life? How many of us prepare ourselves to go to the polls with an inclusive, positive attitude rather than an exclusionary, negative mind set? How many of us prepare to go to the polls liking one candidate and disliking another? How many of us can ask ourselves 15 questions about what it would take to be a good president and apply the yes/no Ben Franklin test to each candidate? I get the impression that most of us prefer to listen to bishop so and so who writes an 800 word essay against the pro-abortionist and go to the polls with that. Is that adult Catholicism? I don't think so.
A while ago I wrote an essay entitled "God is pro-Choice". (March, 2006) I received a very scholarly response from a serious theologian who cautioned me that such statements can and will be interpreted according to the political terminology of the times. It is not therefore proper to try to change the meaning of the words because they will not be understood in the absolute sense that the writer (in this case, yours truly) intends. I do stick to my opinion. Even the person who opts for an abortion, makes a choice. Nothing gets done without someone making a choice. Adult Catholics make choices according to their conscience. Normally a good solid conscience is formed with the framework of Church teaching. I believe that a good solid conscience of a well-informed lay person is as good a guide as the well informed conscience of bishop so and so. The bishop can say all he wants but the conscience of the listener can be based on valid truths that dictate another line of action. The proof of the validity of this is the example of the community of bishops around the world making differing and even contradictory statements about the same behavior. That is why I listen, I pray, I make up my own mind according to the dictates of my conscience and I act.
Now that you know that I am at peace with myself about these things, when you go to my funeral I want to hear you saying something like, "He was weird, but look at that s___t
eating grin he has on him!" That's the sign that you should never, ever think of crying at my funeral.