In the Gospels, we read about a certain rich young man who sought to justify Himself to the Lord:
“Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.
“You know the commandments, ‘ DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.’”
And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”
Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.
And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:17-25)
When we read this passage, many of us might resort to reducing this to a lesson about money, or even worse, believing that Jesus expects us to give all of our material wealth to the poor. Clearly, however, that was not His intention for everyone. The intention of Our Lord was simply to teach His disciples that God owns everything in our lives, and that we are merely to be good stewards of it. In the above story, the rich young man went away “grieving” because he could not put his wealth under God’s sovereignty. For us, it could very well be wealth, but it could also be any kind of talent, material advantage, or influence that we possess. Christ was challenging this man to give over everything to God’s providence.
You”ll notice too, that once the man went away sad, Our Lord did not play the fool, allowing him to indulge his disorder. He didn’t run after him either once he left. He merely let him go, turned to His disciples, and explained how disordered attachments to this world – whether they be money, or fame, or reputation, or anything else – will be a formidable impediment to entering the Kingdom of God.
There is something relevant in this story to the Ted Kennedy funeral fiasco. Notice that Jesus let the man go. He didn’t play the indulgent instructor by ignoring the problem with this rich young man. He didn’t pretend that there wasn’t something seriously wrong in this man’s life. He didn’t offer this man some kind of cheap mercy or false compassion. It says Jesus “felt a love for him”, but the expression of that love did not come from indulgence but from a challenge.
Love always challenges. Cowardice never does.
Where was the challenge to Ted Kennedy to publicly repent before he died? Can we really say we loved Ted Kennedy, if we let him go unchallenged? Would Our Lord really have loved the man, if he had sent him away in a self righteous state, falsely believing that everything was kosher?
Of course not.
Unfortunately, for everyone at the Kennedy funeral, his family, friends, and the general public lining his funeral route and watching on TV, the Church was not interested in challenging Ted before he went to his place. Instead, our pastors sent him away singing in false delight, telling him that everything was going to be alright and that he would soon see his brothers.
Unlike the Church leaders in Boston and Washington, however, Jesus was no sugar daddy, peddling a counterfeit mercy with a soft voice and slick smile. The currency of false mercy, cloaked in its own false and self righteous accusations of “hatred, vitriol, and violence”, purchases nothing of true worth or virtue because it benefits only those who trade in it, either for human respect or the shunning of the cross. The only words of rebuke from these people are those they direct to faithful followers of Christ who insist on Our Lord’s unmistakable witness. They save the words of “mercy and compassion” for those who would otherwise crucify them so that they (our teachers) may avoid that fate altogether.
Instead of teaching the crowds “as one having authority” like Our Lord did, Cardinal O’Malley and his supporters taught as the Scribes did in hypocrisy and for personal advantage or benefit (Cf. Matt. 7:29). The actions of our leaders are rightly incurring the scorn and contempt that the Scribes themselves were held in during Our Lord’s time.
Like Cardinal O’Malley, Saint Padre Pio belonged to the Capuchin order. But sadly, in the case of bold courage, this is where the similarity ends.
There are many famous stories about Saint Pio which portray his love and mercy and kindness. But there are also many stories of him being rather gruff and condemnatory and even impolite! The Saint, who experienced the stigmata during his life, was also known to read souls. One account explains how one particular woman entered into the Confessional to confess her sins to Padre Pio. Immediately, he shouted, “Criminal!” Shocked, the woman asked the reason for his reaction, and he replied, “I see all three of your children in hell as a result of your lax faith!” This example, and many like them by Padre Pio, should serve as a strong and unmistakable reminder to Cardinal O’Malley and his followers that there is indeed such a thing as false compassion or mercy.
For all of those who have ears, let them hear!
“I beg you not to criticize me by invoking charity, because the greatest charity is to deliver souls held fast by Satan in order to win them over to Christ.” – Saint Padre Pio