Let's Be People of Peace

There are so many issues at hand in our times that stir our emotions: abortion, same-sex marriage, the death penalty, assisted suicide, and probably a few more. Catholics, of course, have a lot to say whenever a social trend conflicts with their teaching and traditions. Thanks to this electronic age, there is no shortage of space to leave comments on anything and everything that piques our interest.  Our online newspapers, social media pages, and other blogs like this are all crucibles of thought waiting to overflow.

I have been in the midst of many of these philosophical online wars and have yet to prove any one of my well-meaning points. The fact is, what we say and how we say it speaks volumes about who we are. The only good thing that has ever come from all the "commenting" is that I have seen how people at both ends of the political spectrum generally think. And for all the hate tossed in my direction, the good thing is that now I know.  I know what folks think of me and believers like me. I know how the "anything goes" lifestyle gets validated and how the "I have my rights" mantra seems to trump any argument of moral absolutes. And it begs the question, "How did we get to this place?"

Pope Francis was right when he commented that Catholics dwell too much on gay issues.  Many mainline Catholics (like me) were frustrated over this bit of wisdom because we wanted to continue beating everyone over the head about how they should conduct their lives. (Remember the story last week about being right versus being liked?) Well, maybe you can be both after all.  What good is being right if no one wants to listen? The fact is, what someone does in the bedroom is an extremely personal issue. Would you want to "out" the folks who contracept their fertility in opposition to the church's teachings? Are you going to organize a march to protest against everyone who has participated in in vitro fertilization procedures? Or maybe we should start a mass-media campaign against the evils of auto-eroticism? In seriousness, these issues of human sexuality are extremely personal and the discussion surrounding them belongs in the confessional, not on social media.

Maybe the turning point for me was when more than one commenter said, "Look, if you're really as Catholic as you say you are, shouldn't you be out changing bedpans somewhere instead of preaching about what is a sin and what isn't?"  In my mind my thoughts were sputtering, "But...but... gay sex is bad!  Oooh! How dare he!" But for all that, this commenter and those like him are right. Let's ask ourselves if wearing our religion on our sleeves hasn't turned us into a bunch of holier-than-thou people who have all but lost the right to dialog on these hot-button issues. And telling people that you only hate the sin and not the sinner won't stick anymore because it still judges their actions.  Who among us could protect our self-esteem from people's criticisms of how we act?

Now here's the biggest eye-opener.  If you are a believer, don't you want everyone to get to heaven? Don't you think every person who breaks a commandment deserves to be forgiven? Aren't you one? If you believe in the gospel, then you ought to be the gospel.  One of my favorite hymns is "In Remembrance of Me" (lyrics by Ragan Courtney).  In part,

In remembrance of Me, heal the sick.
In remembrance of Me, feed the poor.
In remembrance of Me, open the door
And let your brother in...

This is where our focus should be.  If someone is addicted to any sinful act, give them a hug. If they want to hear the Christian message, that can come later. First we should show that we are a people of peace above all else.  You will reap what you sow.