for Sunday, January 30, 2022
Fr. Smith had had enough. This last week pushed him over the edge. First there
were the kids who got arrested for having alcohol at a party. Then there were the adults
who mounted a smear campaign against an unwed mother. Then he went into Church
and found that the poor boxes had been broken into. Fr. Smith had had it with these
people. He decided it was time to let it rip. So he stood up there in the pulpit and yelled
out. "You people, with your lying, your drinking, your cheating, your stealing ways. If you
keep this up you are going to go to hell. Is that what you want? Do you want to go to
hell! Stand up if you want to go to hell." There was a hush in the church. You could
have heard a pin drop. Suddenly, John Jones stood up. Everyone gasped. Jones was
one of the kindest, most devout members of he parish. And he stood up. Fr. Smith was
beside himself. "Jones, do you want to go to hell?"
"Then, why did you get up, man."
"Well, father, I didn't think it was right that you were the only one standing."
As silly as this joke is, it contains a horrible truth. That truth does not involve what
some of those people were doing. The horrible truth of the joke is that the lack of love in
the priest, his using condemnation and meanness to get a point across, is self-defeating.
There is no love in his guidance. There is no charity in his words.
We are surrounded by so much vitriol. Political parties don't just disagree, they
express hatred for each other. Hate mongers feel empowered to unleash their venom.
Last year I drove by a white supremacist hate truck. I could not believe the horrible
things plastered all over the truck. The venom was directed at at least half of our parish.
It was sickening. When we come to Church, we want to find a sanctuary from all this. I
don't want, you don't want, a religion that grounds itself in fear and hatred.
The priest in the story is more then just the butt of a joke. He reflects many
people of the present time, as well as the past times, who show absolutely no charity in
the presentation of what they consider the teaching of the Church. I receive emails all
the time from people who say that we priests should be hammering people with what
these people think the truth is. They claim that the Church is run by immoral people.
They relegate every priest and bishop who does not bow to their distorted views as
purveyors of immorality. I am disgusted by web-sites that promote to be written by real
Catholics, but through their hostility, their lack of love, are questionable as Christians,
followers of Christ. They certainly are not the real Catholics they purport to be. Of
course, there is no use in arguing with these people because they are basically Gnostic.
The ancient heresy of Gnosticism never went away. The Gnostic believes that he or she
has the inner knowledge, secret knowledge. If you don't agree with them, that's because
you have not been given the gift of what they call true knowledge. But they don't have
inner knowledge. In fact, they don't have any knowledge at all, at least not the gift of the
Holy Spirit that is knowledge.
A Church that bashes people in the head is not the Church that Jesus came to
found. I don't want to be part of a Church that spews hatred. Nor do you. Nor did St.
Paul. The beginning of today's second reading from 1 Corinthians 12, talks about the
foundation of our faith. The foundation of our faith is Jesus Christ, and Jesus is Love.
Listen again to what Paul says:
If I speak in human and angelic tongues,
but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy,
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own,
and if I hand my body over so that I may boast,
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
We are accustomed to a disconnect between appearance and reality. We are
used to learning that this or that person is very rich, or very famous, and at the same
time a pathetic human being. We know that we could have riches, fame or power and
be miserable people.
What we are less accustomed to realizing is that there can be a disconnect
between the appearance of greatness and reality when it comes to spiritual things.
Someone can be rich in religious experiences, someone can prophesy or speak in
tongues, and still be a self aggrandizing misfit. Someone can be famous for care for the
poor, and still be a pathetically swollen ego of a person. Someone can even have the
power to perform miracles, heal the sick or move mountains, and still be rotten to the
core with arrogance and pride. Someone might look to be truly something, and yet still
No human person can be anything unless he or she reflects the image of the
Creator. Our God is a consuming fire, we read in Hebrews 12:29. He is a consuming fire
of love. Without love, no matter what other kind of apparent greatness a person may
have, in reality that person is nothing. But with the all consuming love of God, our actions
can transform the world. And we can be something, sons and daughters of God.
You and I are only something if we are on fire with love. Our actions only have
meaning if they are rooted in His Love. Our faith, our religion, is only worthwhile if it
brings the love to the world.
Jesus came to establish the Kingdom of God. This is a Kingdom of love. This
love is not a warm feeling of affection that tries to please everybody and never rock the
boat. Rather, it is a courageous love, willing to get killed in order to bring good to those it loves. True love, God's love, embraces everybody. That kind of love is something!
And we are nothing unless we have it.
We are the Church. We are the ones empowered to establish the Kingdom of
God. We need to put up a fight against the vitriol of our times. We can bring God's love
to the world. We must be people grounded in His love.
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Jeremiah 1.4-5, 17-19
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12.31 - 13.13
Gospel: Luke 4.21-30
This material is used with permission of its author, Rev. Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino, Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL. Visit his
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: