At the very beginning of our conversion, we try to emulate Christ at a superficial level. We are play-acting. This is not a bad thing, not really, because the job of living the life of Jesus in His humility is difficult. We will probably mature in faith past this normal stage of development.
However, at even this early stage of development this are obstacles to prevent our growth, and this play-acting is one of them. It often involves the temptation to be clever and glib in our words, filling in gaps where our knowledge does not yet reach, and that is the topic of today’s reflection.
Apologetics often increases this temptation. In this excellent service of opening the eyes of the blind, to use the words of Isaiah, we are not always careful about breaking reeds. Sometimes, an eager but ignorant example will only confirm someone in his error.
Just because you listen to a lot of Catholic Answers Live doesn’t mean that you know everything you need to defend the faith. There are serious objections the radio format simply cannot touch upon. If you do defend the faith based on what you’ve learned from the fine folks at Catholic Answers, do not assume confidence beyond what you explicitly know.
We make stuff up by guesses, and this is a problem even with educated guesses. With guesses, we look to ourselves, without care for what the Church teaches, just because we want to rebuke as Jesus does in today’s Gospel. Rather than keep our eye on the clear and constant light of the Gospel as proclaimed by the Church, we begin to veer away from it by our additions and accretions.
This, if left unchecked, leads to misunderstanding the nature of the faith. Because we do not know what is true and what we’ve made up, we consider things scandalous even when they merely displease us. We become sensitive even to false scandal.
Suddenly, instead of rebuking Judas like Jesus does in today’s Gospel, we rebuke Jesus like Judas does. We are no longer emulating our Lord. We are emulating His traitor. Like the foes and enemies of God as mentioned in today’s psalm, we ourselves “stumble and fall.” When war is waged upon us we do not hold fast.
This is the problem of rigorists, like the Donatists. This is the problem of the original Protestants. This is the problem of many new and many malformed in the faith, in whom fervor and confidence are founded on the self more than the Church.
Fortunately, God “gives breath to his people, and spirit,” and is our light and salvation. The answer to the question of cleverness is — as we have been writing this entire Lent — to refocus on God. Only with God will we have no fear when an army encamps against us.
We should trust in God, and His Church, even when war is waged upon us, and if we refocus on God, we will have the strength to continue in trust. If we refocus on God, we will have the strength to not speak where we do not know — we can have the strength to be stouthearted, waiting for inspiration from the Lord if it pleases Him to give it to us.
Do not be confident that after defeating this temptation another will not take its place. Later, there may be a time where we have filled in all the gaps of our ignorance, where we do not need to act anymore. We must keep this in mind: Just because we have all the answers does not mean we have the devotion of Mary of Bethany, who anoints Jesus with the best she has, who wipes His feet with her hair. Judas has all the money, and he does not have this devotion.
Approaching individual bits of knowledge of the faith as things to treasure for their own sake is to make the holy and true doctrines of the faith mere idols. Instead emulate the saints, those who emulate Christ through love and devotion. Be as Mary of Bethany, or Mary of Egypt, or Mary the Mother of God, and love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.