In the first letter to his convert, protégé, and spiritual son, Timothy, who was also a bishop, Saint Paul touches on a subject that is terribly prevalent today as it was in those times, because it unfortunately springs from the worst impulses of the human heart. It is the discontent, the bitterness, the resentment that some people seem to feel about nearly everything, especially about those in authority over them. Saint Paul begins by urging Timothy to teach the truths that Paul taught him, and then adds, “Whoever teaches something different and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes.”
Does that sound familiar? It should; we are surrounded by that kind of thinking in the Church and especially in the media. For example, when Pope Benedict was elected, there were moans and groans: the Pope is a German and therefore a Nazi; the Pope was the head of the Holy Office for years, which makes him an inquisitor, a witch-hunter. His pontificate will be one of terrible severity and a return to the days of burnings at the stake. When theology is discussed, these angry people immediately bring up the Church’s “crimes” of not being willing to accept divorce and remarriage, of not accepting homosexual behavior or same-sex marriage, of not ordaining women to the priesthood, etc., etc.
You find them in the political arena also, always eager to blame the president, or the governor, or the mayor, or the IRS, for all the problems in the world. The worldwide depression of the 30s was all Herbert Hoover’s fault, they claimed. The Iraq war today is genocide on the part of President Bush. And now the tremendous suffering inflicted by Hurricane Katrina is the fault of the Republican administration. This ugly, angry, armchair theology and politics is so tiresome, so uninformed, so destructive of the joy that we should possess. I’m not advocating a Pollyanna approach to life, but I am pointing out that our basic joy as children of God should express itself in a positive, constructive, prayerful approach to life rather than the carping criticism and blame-fixing of some. Saint Paul ends this passage by saying to Saint Timothy: “But you, man of God, avoid all this. Instead pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This Message was composed some years ago.