Faithlessness Breeds a Guilty Conscience
Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke
P>HYTHE, KENT, UK (Catholic Online) - Don't judge me. How many times have you heard this?
It is a fascinating phenomenon that the more a person or a culture strays from right conscience, from the law that is written on every human heart and is perceptible to anyone of good will, the more guilty they feel, and the more quickly they will cry out, "Don't judge me!"
When I walk down the street dressed in my religious garb it is quite common for me to get this exact look, as if by representing Jesus Christ on the street I was already manifesting a judgment on this generation. It is not uncommon for some to scurry away as if at the sight of a religious priest the moral cops had just come for a bust.
Because we live in a faithless generation it is generation hypersensitive to judgment, kind of like someone whose eyes are really sensitive to light who has to cover their eyes when it shines out.
In the Gospel for today, Jesus explains why faithlessness brings about a guilty conscience. "Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke."
Yet, Jesus "did not come to condemn the world but to save the world." Faith is a decision. It is a moral decision. If you choose to reject what you know is right, to believe in Jesus Christ, you sin. If you chose to believe him, you do a good and holy thing.
The Second Vatican Council teaches this in the beautiful document on conscience, Dignitatis Humanae, the Declaration on Religious Freedom.
"All men are bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth." (Dignitatis Humanae 2)
Let me repeat, Vatican II says that it is a sin to not believe in Christ if he reveals himself to you. It does not say, you can believe what ever you damn well please. Here I would like to point out that the word "damn" is a descriptive adjective, for by believing something to be false that you know very well to be true you commit a sin and therefore incur damnation.
Vatican II teaching on conscience basically rephrases Jesus' teaching from today's Gospel:
1. Jesus came to save us, but if we reject him we reject the salvation he offers.
2. We are free to accept or reject him
3. We are bound in conscience to accept him once he reveals himself to us.
4. He has not been revealed to us if the witness - the person or culture or congregation - who is proclaiming Christ is not living a Christian life and therefore we are still not responsible for accepting him.
5. If we respect people's consciences, we will live our faith that Christ may be revealed to them and that they might be saved.
6. Catholics have a special moral obligation therefore to preach the truth both in word and in deed.
7. "In order to be faithful to the divine command, 'teach all nations' (Matt. 28:19-20), the Catholic Church must work with all urgency and concern 'that the word of God be spread abroad and glorified' (2 Thess. 3:1)." (Dignitatis Humanae 14)
The first reading for today, where St Paul and St Barnabas were set apart for the preaching of the Gospel has not at all been outdated. In this faithless generation, there is a terrible urgency for missionaries to go out, not just to people who have never heard of Christ, but to to people who have never seen real witnesses of Him.
May Our Lady, star of the New Evangelization, pray that new saints of our times may go forth to proclaim the saving truth of the Gospel.
Father Samuel Medley, SOLT, is a priest of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, and is based in Hythe, Kent, United Kingdom. He speaks to groups around the world on Blessed Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Visit his homily blog http://medleyminute.blogspot.com or his blog on sexual ethics http://loveandresponsibility.org
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