Summary: We must go well beyond tolerance if we are to become the best version of ourselves, and always witnessing to the truth.

Thursday of 23rd week in course 2015

Joy of the Gospel

About ten years ago I asked Abp Gomez to visit my religion class and talk about priestly vocations to my boys. He kindly did so and started out with a pointed question: why are you a Catholic? It swelled my heart to hear one of the class leaders tell him: “I am a Catholic because we have the only religion that teaches us to love our enemies.” This passage from St. Luke’s kerygma is the most challenging text in all religious writing, I think. Think of those who are so vocal in preaching “tolerance.” Do they tolerate anything but total surrender to their own agenda? Tolerance says to believers, these days, “You are an idiot for believing what your five-thousand year old, or older, teaching tells you. I will, however, tolerate your stupidity, at least until I can bring the full force of law and culture to bear to force you not only to tolerate things you don’t accept, but even to change your mind and believe that evil is good, and good is evil.” That, I submit, is exactly the opposite of loving our enemies. We love our enemies by praying for them, doing good to them, and continuing to speak and write the Truth.

Instead of “tolerance,” St. Paul counsels “forbearance,” which goes way beyond simply tolerating somebody whom you cannot like. It means humbly imitating our Lord by forgiving anything that person has done to injure you, and then actively doing good for him or her. This can bring together those who would be naturally separated by their personal preferences or backgrounds. I mean bringing us together to celebrate our mutual filiation, our being children of God and brethren of Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Father ties in the call to faith with this kind of response: ‘All of us need to grow in Christ. Evangelization should stimulate a desire for this growth, so that each of us can say wholeheartedly: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

‘It would not be right to see this call to growth exclusively or primarily in terms of doctrinal formation. It has to do with “observing” all that the Lord has shown us as the way of responding to his love. Along with the virtues, this means above all the new commandment, the first and the greatest of the commandments, and the one that best identifies us as Christ’s disciples: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12). Clearly, whenever the New Testament authors want to present the heart of the Christian moral message, they present the essential requirement of love for one’s neighbour: “The one who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the whole law… therefore love of neighbour is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:8, 10). These are the words of Saint Paul, for whom the commandment of love not only sums up the law but constitutes its very heart and purpose: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself’” (Gal 5:14). To his communities Paul presents the Christian life as a journey of growth in love: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all” (1 Th 3:12). Saint James likewise exhorts Christians to fulfil “the royal law according to the Scripture: You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (2:8), in order not to fall short of any commandment.

‘On the other hand this process of response and growth is always preceded by God’s gift, since the Lord first says: “Baptize them in the name…” (Mt 28:19). The Father’s free gift which makes us his sons and daughters, and the priority of the gift of his grace (cf. Eph 2:8-9; 1 Cor 4:7), enable that constant sanctification which pleases God and gives him glory. In this way, we allow ourselves to be transformed in Christ through a life lived “according to the Spirit” (Rom 8:5).’

Transformation in Christ is just another way to say “become the best version of ourselves.” Jesus and Mary are the patterns of what in business we would call “best practices.” We imitate Jesus and Mary in their “compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience” and thus become the best versions of ourselves. Let’s pray together for that grace, and work together to make it the universal vision of this parish and city.

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