The reason why people like DeMoss and the Cardinal fail in their silly attempt to hug and laugh people into being civil is because they completely miss the mark on a core teaching of our Lord Jesus that we heard in today’s Gospel Reading at Mass from Mark 12:28-34.
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied to that question by reciting the Shema Yisra’el from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (see also Dt. 11:13-21; Num. 15:37-41) that pious Jews recite twice a day: “Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”” Jesus then offered a caveat to the scribe. Though he only asked for the first commandment, Jesus deigned to throw in a second. He told him, “The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” This command the Lord drew from Leviticus 19:18, which reads, “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”
Notice that the word that ties both of these commandments together is ‘love’. “God is Love”, according to 1 John 4:8, and according to Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
Love is a completely different animal than civility. We never hear in the Scriptures that God is civil. Civility is formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech. Civility is tolerance to all types of things, even immorality and sin. Civility consists of making polite remarks in formal conversation, such as laughing and joking at the Al Smith Dinner.
The world is actively demanding that we be civil, while the Lord is actively commanding that we love. Satan would rather us be to civil to one another, rather than we love one another. My favorite prophets of the Bible are Jeremiah and John the Waymaker (Baptist). They are two of most uncivil people in all of the Scriptures. John even looked uncivilized. This push for civility is a mask; it’s a press for the pretense; it’s used by cowards as a reason to avoid the truth. People who are opposed to Christ Jesus will always be uncivil to His followers. They will always persecute His followers. In return, those who follow Christ Jesus will always do their best to love those who are uncivil to them and who are persecuting them. But we will not always be civil towards them. Our speech may not always be polite and nice. We will not turn a blind eye towards their immorality and sin for an opportunity to laugh and joke with them.
I have people in my life who like to tell me that I should be nice – that I should be more civil – that I shouldn’t say things the way I say them – that I should be more tolerate. Here’s what I know; that as a Christian I have been called to always act in love in truth. Now, where my actions are received as being civil and nice, then that says a lot about those who have received my actions. In contrast, if me acting in love in truth makes someone upset, then that also says a lot about those who have received my actions.
An egg and a block of cheese will respond in completely different ways under the exposure of intense heat from the Sun. They react differently not because of the Sun, but, rather, because of what they are – because of their essence – their substance. Similarly, we should imitate the Sun (the Son) – be prayerfully consistent in acting in love and truth. As a result, people will react differently to you, but that has everything to do with them, and nothing with you. Should you be persecuted for Christ’ sake, rejoice. Should you be received warming for Christ’ sake, rejoice.
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.
The LORD lives! And blessed be my rock!
Extolled be God my savior.
You who gave great victories to your king
and showed kindness to your anointed.
Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.