Silence is Not an Option: Be Not Afraid
© Fr. Robert Schreiner
Jesus said to the Twelve: "Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father."
As we prepare young couples for marriage in my Diocese, one of the instruments we use is called FOCCUS. It assesses the attitudes of each person in the relationship toward significant issues in marriage.
One of the statements the couple is asked to consider is this: "I value 'keeping peace' at any price." For seventeen years now, I have had to take the time and explain to one or both parties of the upcoming marriage why they are wrong to agree with that statement - why 'keeping peace' at any price is not healthy for a marriage in the long run. For almost inevitably I meet the argument from them that a marriage is supposed to be peace-filled, harmonious and loving. And thus any behavior or disagreement which disturbs that peace or upsets that harmony cannot possibly be "loving" and must be bad thing to do.
Such an argument, though naive, has the advantage of seeming logical. But in the mystery of love, logic simply isn't enough. Love, real and authentic love, risks everything to be true. Or else it condemns itself to a slow death, in the silent peace which is bought at too high a price. Real love knows how to survive the tempests which honesty often begets. But love cannot survive the long suffering silence of a 1000 cuts, even if it suffers for peace. And one day, the corpse of a once vibrant covenant lay before a couple - with both bemused at what went wrong. After all - they lived for peace.
"Do not be afraid..." says the Lord to the twelve. Do not be afraid to risk in love and thus risk losing those whom love compels you to serve. Risk losing everything, or behold nothing. The Lord wanted his apostles emboldened to speak His message to the House of Israel. He wanted them to proclaim a new covenant to a people who had calcified in their observance of the old one. He wanted them to know and to proclaim The Truth. Only the Truth spoken on their lips was worthy of the name of Love. And he swiftly added, 3 times he added, "Do not be afraid."
Do you suppose he'd have said that, not once, not twice, but three time unless he understood what awaited them - out there? Of course he knew. He knew that these apostles were going to face hostility like they had never faced before. Armed with the Truth of Christ, he sent them out to speak it, announce it, proclaim from the rooftops! He didn't want them stuttering, stammering some wimpy, wishy-washy watered down version of the Good News so as not to risk offending the religious sensitivities of the day.
Had he wanted to preserve the peace at any cost among the house of Israel, we would not have had this gospel. If that had been Christ's goal - then I suggest he would not have said to them "Do not be afraid," as our Gospel announces but rather he would have instructed them, "I want you to be sensitive to everybody's positions and thoughts on the matter of salvation..." If Jesus had wanted immediate harmony within the house of Israel he would not have said to them, "Do not be afraid - everyone who acknowledges me before others - I will acknowledge." Rather for instant harmony's sake - he would have advised them instead: "Be careful - if I'm too controversial for people, don't push your agenda on them and upset them."
Jesus knew - what many followers seem to have forgotten today. Peace, at any price, is too costly to love. Truth - Jesus Christ - is the only way to love. He is the only way to any peace which is worth the name. Love survives the storms of honesty - here understood as the Truth of the Gospel for the world. But humanity will never survive the passive silence of a 1000 cuts instigated under the banner of tolerance and the need to 'just get along.' Such perceived civic virtues as these, admittedly undertaken for all the right reasons by many today, can only yeild a harvest of loss and a world of disappointment and alienation.
Jesus knew - what we must recognize now. Peace, love and justice are founded on a singular foundation: Truth - Universal, absolute, knowable and unchangeable Truth - incarnated in Christ.
The question is, as it was for the first apostles: What are you going to risk to build this lasting civilization of love? Are you going to risk the explosive wrath of your children to lay down the moral law and teach them that Sin is real and hell, in fact, is a choice? Or are you going to go along to get along - risk nothing to keep the peace in your house - and allow your children to trot merrily along a path of least resistance - which, experience verifies - is most often a path of self-destruction? Is that love?
Are you willing to risk the rejection of your peer group when you stand up to the attitudes and actions in your school which you know in your heart of hearts are wrong? Or will you keep silent, blend in, choose not to buck the crowd and hope to escape the excruciating wrath which only teen-peer pressure can exert? Is that freedom?
Are you willing to risk a neighbor's or a friend's or a fellow worker's scornful judgment of you by standing up for your religious convictions and moral tenants - stating so plainly and without judgment so that all in your hearing might be given the truer option of freedom and for love? Or will you silently let things pass in your presence, killing your convictions one by one as a 1000 cuts to faith are inflicted silently... and you wake up one day, dead inside - certain that religion serves no real purpose anymore...That's not love.
True love - risks speaking the Truth. The apostles learned this. And for it they were murdered. Jesus taught this - to his own bloody death. And we have been loved into existence as a community of faith because of their original risk.
And still he says to us: Do not be afraid. If true peace is to be possible here, now and tomorrow...Speak.
For silence is not an option: Be Not Afraid.
Fr. Schreiner is a Minnesota native who currently serves as pastor of the Cathedral parish in the Diocese of Crookston, MN. Ordained in 1989, he later received a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (magna cum laude) from the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, IL; and he is currently a doctoral candidate in moral theology from the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in Washington, D.C. He presently serves as the Episcopal Vicar for Health Care Affairs in the Diocese. Fr. Schreiner has also taught college level courses in Philosophical Ethics, served as an instructor in Systematic and Moral Theology courses for the Diocesan Ministry School, and served as Vicar for the Diaconate and Diaconate formation for 12 years
Fr Robert Schreiner
http://www.catholic.org VA, US
Fr. Robert Schreiner - Priest, 757 546-9580
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