04 February 2023

The truth is always pastoral

4th Week OT (S)

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great, Irving

Let no one say that Our Lord was not a great Dominican! Mark bears witness to this: “...his heart was moved with [compassion] for [the vast crowd], for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” In the Order, we call this compassionate impulse to teach the truth, misericordia veritatis – the mercy of truth. What we know and want to make more widely known is that revealing the truth and receiving the truth are acts of mercy, manifestations of compassion. IOW, speaking the truth and hearing the truth will set you free. Free from what? Whatever is binding you to sin and death. Our Lord is moved to teach the truth b/c – looking out over the vast crowd – he can see everything holding his Father's people down. Material and spiritual poverty. Disordered passions and appetites. Intellectual pride and the desire for worldly recognition. Crippling disease. Loneliness. All flowing together to create a suffocating cloud of despair. Our Lord has two choices: 1). teach the truth and risk the anger of the world, or 2). comfort with a lie and soak up the world's appreciation. We can see the choice he made. [point to crucifix]

He chose to be the Good Shepherd of his sheep. Not the choice everyone makes. Recently, a newly minted American cardinal published an essay calling on the Church to abandon her ancient teachings on sexual morality in the name of “compassion” and “inclusion.” B/c some feel excluded from the Church, he argues, it's imperative that the Church soothe their feelings by lying to them. There's nothing new here. Pushing the Church to forsake the Gospel in favor of the Lie is as old as the Church. And there is nothing merciful, compassionate, or pastoral about lying. The truth is always pastoral. Veritas in caritate is always pastoral. Jesus doesn't say to the crowd, “If your poverty makes you sad, just pretend you are rich!” He doesn't say to those suffering physically, “You're not in pain if you believe you aren't!” Nor to those w/o hope, “Your despair is who you are. Embrace it!” Instead, he show them compassion and teaches them the truth, a way to be free of their slavery to sin and death. If and when we are willing, he heals us, lifts us up, and offers us a place at his Father's table. Mercy is offered but it must be received in repentance. That's misericordia veritatis.

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