Always be nice!

It is his right. She is entitled to her viewpoint. It is their business. God gave us each free will. Be charitable. Don’t judge! Always be nice!!!

All true, properly understood, but not an unequivocal call to silence. To the contrary, in the face of evil we are called to speak-up. Too often, we remain quiet because we do not want to be a “busy-body.” We do not want to seem “narrow minded” or possibly be called a “hateful bigot.” We want to fit in, to belong and to be accepted.

When we remain silent in the face of evil, we are NOT being charitable. Charity is the manifestation of love and if we truly love another, ignoring objectively sinful behavior is not loving but enabling. Our silence is unavoidably a response in itself, a raising of no objection, the implicit sharing of a “like mind” and an apparent affirmation. That voice we hear telling us something is wrong is the Holy Spirit speaking to us. Staying quiet is saying “no” to Him.

Only God can can judge another’s heart and know the state of their soul. THAT judging is not our prerogative. On the other hand, we are called to fraternal correction of our brothers and sisters in their objectively sinful actions. Failing to do so is cooperation with evil. Remember that when you pray the Confiteor – I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,

In raising an objection we show the love of Christ. In humility, we seek only to help another know the truth and lead them back to God. This is a good work even when it is poorly received as it may be a seed eventually leading the other to holiness. It might also strengthen others weakened by the scandal, depending on circumstances.

Silence is not the loving response when we hear “abortion is a woman’s choice,” “prohibiting marriage is discrimination against gays,” “contraception is legitimate healthcare,” “torture is moral,” “living together takes their relationship to the next level,” or “we should bomb them back to the stone age.”

Will our voice be immediately welcomed with love and acceptance? You know it usually will not. Speaking the truth more often results in rejection, scorn, ridicule, knee-jerk name calling and other forms of persecution. St. Francis of Assisi said “Lord, grant that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love.” Our Lord Himself said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Father Groeschel provides this perspective on persecution:

If we aren’t cleansed by the end of our days, then we will have to pass through the ultimate purification beyond death, which we call purgatory. We will then have to mourn and suffer to make up for what was lacking during our pilgrimage on this earth. So rejoice and be glad for whatever opportunities you do have to mourn and suffer persecution. Great is your reward, and shortened is your stay in the foyer of heaven.

Fr. Benedict Groeschel
Heaven in Our Hands

In Lent last year, the Holy Father directly addressed this topic (my highlights):

“Being concerned for each other” also entails being concerned for their spiritual well-being. Here I would like to mention an aspect of the Christian life, which I believe has been quite forgotten: fraternal correction in view of eternal salvation. Today, in general, we are very sensitive to the idea of charity and caring about the physical and material well-being of others, but almost completely silent about our spiritual responsibility towards our brothers and sisters. This was not the case in the early Church or in those communities that are truly mature in faith, those which are concerned not only for the physical health of their brothers and sisters, but also for their spiritual health and ultimate destiny. The Scriptures tell us: “Rebuke the wise and he will love you for it. Be open with the wise, he grows wiser still, teach the upright, he will gain yet more” (Prov 9:8ff). Christ himself commands us to admonish a brother who is committing a sin (cf. Mt 18:15). The verb used to express fraternal correction – elenchein – is the same used to indicate the prophetic mission of Christians to speak out against a generation indulging in evil (cf. Eph 5:11). The Church’s tradition has included “admonishing sinners” among the spiritual works of mercy. It is important to recover this dimension of Christian charity. We must not remain silent before evil. I am thinking of all those Christians who, out of human regard or purely personal convenience, adapt to the prevailing mentality, rather than warning their brothers and sisters against ways of thinking and acting that are contrary to the truth and that do not follow the path of goodness. Christian admonishment, for its part, is never motivated by a spirit of accusation or recrimination. It is always moved by love and mercy, and springs from genuine concern for the good of the other. As the Apostle Paul says: “If one of you is caught doing something wrong, those of you who are spiritual should set that person right in a spirit of gentleness; and watch yourselves that you are not put to the test in the same way” (Gal 6:1). In a world pervaded by individualism, it is essential to rediscover the importance of fraternal correction, so that together we may journey towards holiness. Scripture tells us that even “the upright falls seven times” (Prov 24:16); all of us are weak and imperfect (cf. 1 Jn 1:8). It is a great service, then, to help others and allow them to help us, so that we can be open to the whole truth about ourselves, improve our lives and walk more uprightly in the Lord’s ways. There will always be a need for a gaze which loves and admonishes, which knows and understands, which discerns and forgives (cf. Lk 22:61), as God has done and continues to do with each of us.

Pope Benedict XVI
Message for Lent 2012

Links are provided to the Holy Scripture citations above, but of particular importance is St. Matthew’s admonition:

“If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would Gentile or tax collector.”

Remember: the blanket admonition “don’t judge” is contrary to Christian charity in the face of objective evil.

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