As the Synod of the Bishops on the Family got underway, the Holy Spirit remained in control and spoke to the gathered participants through the Holy Word at morning Mass. Monday morning’s readings extended both a caveat and a pathway for the Bishops to follow. Let’s begin with the caveat.
St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians holds nothing back:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel — not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:6-12).
As leaders in the Church, we priests and bishops are always tempted to use a type of “pastoral strategy” that does all that we can to be “people pleasers.” We are human and, as humans, we like to be liked. Ask any parent – if they never needed to discipline their little ones, they would be very happy. Unfortunately, some bad parents actually choose to refrain from discipline as they place their own immediate happiness ahead of the long term well-being of their children. They somehow convince themselves that it is a loving act to “spare the rod and spoil the child.” However, they are really practicing a form of self-love as they place their own need to “be liked” by their child ahead of what is really best for the child.
St. Thomas Aquinas defined love as “to will the good of another.” If a child runs out into busy traffic, a parent’s first thought cannot be, “I cannot discipline this child because they may not like me.” No. A parent must be clear and firm, in order to save the child from future harm (willing the good of the child). This is the only really loving thing to do.
Just so, as leaders in the Church, we must be clear and firm in order to save those in our charge from a life (and after-life) separated from God. As St. Paul exhorts us not to speak a watered down or “perverted” gospel that simply “seeks the favor of men,” we must be unafraid to challenge the souls entrusted to our care with the unadulterated, untainted and undiluted Word of God. This is the only really loving thing we can do for our people.
This brings us to Monday’s Gospel, and the pathway the bishops must follow:
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:25-37)
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God (CCC 1822).
Charity (theological virtue of love), [easyazon_link asin=”0307886344″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”onep073-20″]according to Fr. John Hardon[/easyazon_link], is:
“… the infused supernatural virtue by which a person loves God above all things for his own sake, and loves others for God’s sake. It is a virtue based on divine faith or in belief in God’s revealed truth, and is NOT acquired by mere human effort. It can be conferred ONLY BY divine grace. Because it is infused along with sanctifying grace, it is frequently identified with the STATE OF GRACE. Therefore, a person who has lost the supernatural virtue of charity has lost the state of grace, although he may still possess the virtues of hope and faith
Here is the pathway our bishops must choose for our families: The Pathway to Heaven!! The bishops must discuss how we can help our people to enter into and remain in a STATE OF GRACE. This is not a time to “win the favor of men” by diluting or distorting the Word of God. Instead, they must “will the good of families” by helping them to rediscover the rich treasury of Catholic teaching and praxis. Call our families to RADICAL HOLINESS!!
The bishops should discuss ways to help our families to rediscover the basic precepts of our Church, a reform of catechesis in our parishes, a reform of adult formation, a world-wide renewal of the Sacrament of Confession, a world-wide promotion of “Family Adoration,” a renewed emphasis on family devotions, and a renewed understanding of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – in which the reality of the Eucharist is made present, which is the source and summit of our faith. All of this will aid our families into that blessed life of living in a STATE OF GRACE. This, as Fr. Hardon teaches, infuses us with the supernatural virtue of love; the ability to TRULY “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
Our families are suffering today because, by and large, they are devoid of a life lived in a state of grace and, therefore, devoid of the supernatural virtue of love.
The bishops must “will the BEST for our families.” This is the BEST!!
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Fr. Richard M. Heilman is a priest of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin State Chaplain for the Knights of Columbus. He is a regular guest host on Relevant Radio’s The Inner Life, and is the founder of the Knights of Divine Mercy, which is an apostolate for Catholic men’s faith formation..
He is also he founder of the Ladies of Divine Mercy, which is an apostolate for Catholic women’s faith formation. He is the author of the Church Militant Field Manual and the Roman Catholic Man website, which are both dedicated to helping Catholics understand and train for their role in the mission of combating evil and rescuing the souls of our loved ones who have lost the precious gift of faith.