If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Way or the Highway

I posted this a couple of years ago, but after a particularly disappointing exchange I've had over the last couple of days with some FaceBook 'friends' (whom I have since 'unfriended' as a result), I decided this essay would be appropriate to post once again.

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. . . . And Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?" After looking around at them all, He said to him, "Stretch out your hand!" And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus (Luke 6:6-11).

Each time I read this passage, I am bewildered by the Pharisees’ cold-heartedness. Why could it be wrong to heal someone – even on the Sabbath?

Throughout the Old Testament, religious scholars such as the Pharisees and scribes were appointed by God Himself to protect the integrity of Jewish faith. And next to circumcision, obedience to the Sabbath Day commandment was a central requirement to the proper performance of Jewish faith. Little wonder, then, that Jesus angered so many of the Jewish teachers and doctrinal specialists when – according to their understanding of Scripture – he broke the Sabbath by healing people.

As I contemplated this vignette in Luke’s gospel, I focused on that phrase – according to their understanding of Scripture. And then another vignette in St. Luke’s gospel flashed into my memory. In this one (chapter 9), the apostle John said to Jesus, We saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us (verse 49).

It seems the Pharisees and other Doctors of the Law were not alone in the practice of their religion within the strict confines of their understanding of Scripture.

Jesus’ disciples practiced the same kind of – what I call – “all or nothing” faith.

“All or nothing” faith. It’s what I also practiced for decades. Unless people worshiped Christ like I worshiped Him, or interpreted Scripture as I did, or attended the same denominational church as I – their Christian faith was suspect.

I should have paid more attention to the Lord’s response to St. John in that next verse: Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you (Luke 9:50).

All or nothing faith. It’s hard to achieve the kind of unity for which Jesus prayed, when we accept from others nothing less than the “Gospel According to Me” (see St. John 17:20-23).

Perhaps that’s why the Lord Jesus said to the Doctors of the Law: Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24). Or St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome: Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand (Romans 14:4).

Lord, help us overcome impatience with patience, pride with humility, a deaf ear with an open mind. Teach us to judge not according to how things appear, but with righteous judgment. Amen.


MCD said...

Rich, your last paragraph really resonated with me. I really need to overcome impatience with patience. Thanks for the post.

Richard Maffeo said...

I think we are all in this together. God bless you and yours.

Michael Bertrand said...

are you familiar with Church of England history? William Laud's tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury (1633-1640) illustrates the dangers of the "all or nothing" principle. His relentless persecution of his opponents (the Puritans), and their equally violent reply, can teach us a lot about being Christian.

Richard Maffeo said...

Hi, Michael. No, I am not that familiar with their history. But your point is well made. Too many on both sides of the theological aisle are all too happy to throw rocks at each other. Meanwhile, Satan is robbing souls while the Church infights. So sad.

Gary Presley said...

I was interested in this: "Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you" (Luke 9:50).

The first thing I thought of is the "love it or leave it" attitude of some attempted patriots, and then the ol' saw about "he who is not with us is against us."

Tolerance as well as patience is a difficult thing to learn, especially tolerance to the proper degree.

Sorry you had to unfriend folks.

Richard Maffeo said...

I like your comment about tolerance to 'the proper degree.' In some cases we tolerate way more than we should.