Evangelize with Love

Part of the struggle of bringing Catholic social doctrine to the public sphere (to a great extent, what the Tertio program that I just returned from, was looking at) is the fact that our world is much less receptive to rational, nature-based, arguments than ever before.  Pope Benedict called this the dictatorship of relativism, but quite simply (if tragically) this is the "anything goes" mentality which rejects any objective, unchanging, everybody-can-figure-it-out, truth for a world based on "your truth" and "my truth".  Well, it's pretty simple, if you don't have an objective truth to mutually rely on, you really can't have a discussion: if you don't have any common ground, you can't have a conversation.  So what do we do when rational discussion breaks down?  How do we bring Christ's truth to the world?

I was discussing this with one of the Sisters of Life who were also attending the seminar, and she grinned when I brought up this question, and said "we just have to be martyrs!"  It was an answer I should have known, but it was one that led to a lot of thinking, and praying about, over the following weeks.  We talked about the exact same thing in our small-group discussions; how do we bring the truth of the Gospel to our modern, anti-Gospel, world?  The answer was hanging above our heads, where the crucifix showed us how Christ brought the Gospel to His anti-Gospel world; He didn't argue that God is love, He showed it.

We, of course, have to do the same thing.  And folks, these times where the anti-Gospel is so rampant, allow us to do just that - to proclaim with our lives, with our witness [martyras/μάρτυρας in the Greek], the truth of the Gospel.  People aren't convinced anymore by rational argument - fine - show them that the Gospel is true because your life is evidence for it.  Show them that following the truth of Christ isn't bondage, but freedom, not oppression  but joy.  And here's the key point that I wanted to make in this post: this is exactly the approach we need to take in the (so attacked today) realm of respect for life.  We must show the world that every human person deserves our respect and love by giving that respect and love to every human person.  It's easy to rally in support of the unborn - they're defenseless, yet we mercilessly, pointlessly, atrociously, murder them, that is an injustice that drives us to act.  It's "easy", in this sense, to show our love for the unborn (even if not socially beneficial nowadays), but what about when love is hard?  Our Lord calls us to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" - when was the last time you showed your love publicly for an enemy? Do we go out of our way to show love for those in Planned Parenthood who were recently exposed for selling the body parts of aborted babies?  What they did was unthinkable (though the logical, utilitarian, conclusion from legalized abortion), but how much time have you spent praying for them?  What about the ISIS-attacker, who recently assaulted (and nearly murdered) a tourist at the Colosseum?  What about the gay-marriage activists who have recently won the federal right for two men or women to marry each other?  We may be similarly repulsed by these evils, but does it drive us to love or hatred towards the persons committing them?  

Not for one instant am I saying that what these individuals have done is morally right.  Abortion is wrong because it is the destruction of human life (and selling body parts from that is tantamount to cannibalism), ISIS-executions are wrong for the same reasons (and so many others), and "gay"-marriage is wrong because it not only hurts any children that couple would raise, but destroys the fundamental element, purpose, and structure of society, and goes against one of God's first commands, to "be fruitful and multiply" (besides going against His creation itself: they're called "reproductive" organs for a reason).  What we should realize though is that all these terrible actions are rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding, or ignoring, of human dignity.  Murder and homosexual actions are wrong because human life is sacred, and we cannot destroy, or redefine, what God has created in His image.  But, here's the big point, we must not forget that innate sacredness, that made-in-God's-image, that ability to give and receive love, that is ours as human persons, in our outrage at rejections of that dignity.  Our reaction to sins against the human person must not lead us to commit sins against different human persons (the perpetrators of the original evils).  

John Paul II forgiving his would-be assassin
To hatred, we must respond with love.  To a rejection of God, we must respond with prayer.  To oppression, we must respond with solidarity.  To terrorism, we must respond with charity.  This is as much of a challenge for me as it is for any of you I suppose.  The difficulty lies in hating sin, but loving the sinner, in making reparation for evil, but interceding for evil-doers.  It has nothing to do with being push-overs, but if we take Christ as our model, we see that love must be our answer, to those who love us, and those who don't.  Not a weak, "luv", but the greatest love: of laying down one's life for another (and his eternal life).  Only this kind of love will convert hearts to Christ because only this kind of love truly mirrors to the world the love of Christ. 

Kolbe holds a crucifix for good reason
Story: It is the end of July, 1941, in Auschwitz, and the Nazi's choose 10 individuals at random to die as a punishment for the escape of three of their fellow prisoners.  Fr. Maximilian Kolbe steps forwards and offers to go in place of another man who had cried out upon being chosen for this terrible death (starvation and dehydration in an underground cell).  The shocked Nazi official authorizes the swap, and the 10 men march off to their deaths.  Two weeks later, having sung hymns or knelt in prayer for most of that horrendous time, Fr. Kolbe is still alive and is killed with an injection of carbolic acid.  The guards place his body in a coffin and cremate it.  St. Maximilian Kolbe is an amazing example of love, but not only for the man who's place he took, but also for the guards who he prayed for, and surrendered to, even after they had tortured him, and then sent him to this excruciating death.  That love had an effect!  Not only did Franciszek Gajowniczek (the one whose place was taken by Kolbe) get to return to his family after WWII, but even the Nazi guards, seeing that incredible witness of Christ-like love, were moved to place his body in a coffin and respectfully carry it to the cremating ovens.  That was the only time in Auschwitz that we know of a "respectful" burial, and those guards did that because they saw something different in Kolbe, they saw love in the midst of hatred, grace in the midst of hell, a saint in the midst of sin.  

We're called to that same witness, that same courageous love, which doesn't attack evil with evil, but displaces it with the greater power of charity.  We may not convince the world with our arguments, but we will with our Christ-driven, and given, love.  In a world of great sin, saints are all the more visible.  

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, 
if you have love for one another." 
- John 13:35 - 

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