Sunday, October 10, 2004

The ‘Tolerance’ Of Those Who Oppose Christ And His Gospel

St. Paul

(Twenty-eighth Sunday of the Year (C): This homily was given on October 10, 2004 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I. Read 1Timothy 2: 8-13.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Twenty-eighth Sunday 2004]

You could entitle this homily, “The ‘Tolerance’ of those who oppose Christ and his Gospel” (please note: tolerance there is in quotes).

At the time of St. Paul, the enemies of Christ and his Truth made no secret about their intolerance. That explains Paul’s remark at the beginning of today’s second reading from 1 Timothy 2. He says, “Beloved: Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David: such is my gospel, for which I am suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal.”

In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul goes into a little more detail about the nature of these sufferings. He writes, “Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes less one; three times I was beaten with rods; I was stoned once, shipwrecked three times; I passed a day and a night on the sea. I traveled continually, endangered by floods, robbers, my own people, the Gentiles; imperiled in the city, in the desert, at sea, by false brothers; enduring labor, hardship, many sleepless nights; in hunger and thirst and frequent fastings, in cold and nakedness.”

And then, in the next line of 2 Corinthians 11, Paul makes it clear that this is not an exhaustive list!

Now some of those sufferings he mentioned were from natural causes, but most of them were not! Most were caused by human beings who openly opposed Jesus Christ and his message. These men and women were intolerant of the Gospel, and they were honest and clear about it!

Not so in today’s world!

Today those who oppose the Gospel regularly call themselves “tolerant.” And they normally get away with it! Furthermore, they label those of us who believe in Christ and in New Testament morality “intolerant,” “narrow-minded,” “hateful,” “discriminatory” and a host of other negative things.

I’ll give you one example of the phenomenon. Recently I exchanged letters in the Westerly Sun with a Mr. “W” (I won’t use his full name, because I don’t want that to distract from the issue).

He began the exchange by writing a letter in support of gay marriage. I responded by taking the foundational assertion of his argument and illustrating its weakness. He said (and here I quote), “I believe encouraging and supporting loving, committed relationships strengthens society as a whole.”

The essence of his argument was that many gay people enjoy loving and committed relationships, therefore they should be able to marry.

I responded by saying that I also believe in encouraging and supporting loving, committed relationships. But not every loving, committed relationship qualifies as a marriage! For example, a good, responsible mother has a loving, committed relationship with her son, but that does not mean she should be able to marry her son!

Then I wrote, “If marriage is defined simply as a ‘loving, committed relationship,’ then what will prevent legalized incest or legalized polygamy or even legalized bestiality in the future? After all, I know many people who dearly love their pets! They are as deeply devoted to their dogs and cats as many human beings are to one another.”

Mr. W thought I was making a sarcastic statement, but I was not. In fact, there are constitutional lawyers in this country who have been saying the very same thing ever since the Supreme Court struck down the Texas anti-sodomy law last year.

Anyway, Mr. W responded by implying that I was all those things I said earlier: intolerant, narrow-minded, hateful and discriminatory.

He said that he preferred to focus his spiritual efforts on “acceptance in place of discrimination, on optimism in place of fear and on love in place of hate.”

The implication he was making is that he’s tolerant and I’m not.

To which I wrote the following final response:

"Let me offer one final observation concerning Mr. W’s support of gay marriage.
If Mr. W and those like him are as "tolerant" as they claim to be, why are they so intolerant of me and others who espouse traditional moral values?
If their tolerance is sincere and real, then they should affirm my viewpoint as readily as they affirm their own.
But they don't. Which means they are as intolerant of Christian moral norms as I am of the violation of those norms.
That's something we all need to be clear about."

The title of this homily is, “The ‘Tolerance’ of those who oppose Christ and his Gospel.” Tolerance is in quotes there because it really isn’t tolerance at all. And those of us who are standing with Christ in today’s decadent culture need to understand this, so that we won’t be intimidated by those who try to silence us by calling us “intolerant.” They are as intolerant as we are!

But they’re intolerant of the Gospel, while we are intolerant of sin and moral evil! That’s the difference—and it’s a big difference.

Does that mean we’re perfect and they aren’t?

No, it doesn’t. We’re all sinners. We’re just sinners who know we’re sinners—which is a first and necessary step in the process of being forgiven.

Let me conclude today by paraphrasing the words of St. Paul at the end of this text, in order to illustrate their true meaning. Paul writes, “If we have died with Christ [by being baptized and by living a life of faith in which we are intolerant of sin], then we shall also live with Christ; if we persevere in holiness and in our intolerance of sin, we shall also reign with him. But if we deny Christ by tolerating sin within ourselves, then he will deny us. If we are unfaithful in this way, however, Christ will still remain faithful to us. He will not condone our sin, but until the last moment of our life he will offer us his mercy and forgiveness. And if we repent, we will receive those gifts from him, for he cannot deny himself.”

When it comes to sin, my brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is exceedingly intolerant! That’s a fact! And for that, we should be grateful. But when he encounters a truly repentant heart, that very same Jesus Christ is exceedingly merciful.

And for that, we should be even more grateful!