Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15)
Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. … He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:10-11)
“A new direction will be required, one that envisions ministry as accompaniment,” said Cupich. This “accompaniment” will be “marked by a deep respect for the conscience of the faithful.” (Cardinal Blase Cupich, as reported in an article at LifeSiteNews.com)
February 28, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – All the talk of “accompaniment” from members of the Catholic hierarchy by way of apologetics for Pope Francis’s pastoral guidance in Amoris Laetitia raises a simple question. It is the same question children generally ask their parents when told, “We’re going for a drive”: “Where are we going?”
The words of Christ, who is surely the best model for all pastors who minister in his name, appears to be “To heaven or to destruction, or else to life.” The first destination likely doesn’t appeal to most people. Perhaps this is why, immediately after identifying the gates that lead to these two very different ends, Christ deals with the possibility of deceit. By doing so, he suggests that those with evil motives, who aim to lead souls to hell, will not abide by any truth in labeling laws.
So both gates he speaks of will probably come under a heading that says, “This way to heaven.” People who peer through them, to get an idea of the prospects ahead, will see one road that appears to be a superhighway. They’ll glimpse a gleaming rest stop near the entrance, replete with signs that promise good eats, convenience stores, and a gas station – full or self service, depending on which you prefer.
On the other side, they’ll see a one-lane rocky road. At a distance, they’ll glimpse an ominous shanty, marked by a signpost that looks more like a gallows than a golden arch. Instead of happy families, continuing on their way, the few souls in evidence are huddled together, as if in fear or mourning. All in all, the prospects appear tough, even threatening. No wonder only a few travelers accept this uninviting offer.
Yet if Christ be our guide, it’s exactly what those few are looking for, those who trust in his word as the way to heavenly life. He stands at the point of divergence, willingly conversing with all who approach him. Some greet him like a familiar friend. Others part from him in that spirit, accepting his word despite the daunting appearance of the alternative he suggests. Many who talk with him seem to agree with him in all things. But when he points to the way that requires the surrender of the belongings they cherish as their very selves, they turn from him, crestfallen, to go where they feel they belong. Christ hurls no invective after them, as might some teachers, injured in their pride. He knows how they burn for the comforts they mistake for home. So he lets them go, with just a word of warning: “sin no more.” Some may ponder that word and turn again his way. Others, unable to see things his way, prefer to follow their own, unconvinced or else uncaring that the heaven of their own understanding avows a false show, masking a fate worse than what they think they know of death.
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If, as Cardinal Cupich’s words suggest, there is some alternative – some way that validates the seeming knowledge of those who do not turn again to Christ, but go the way of their understanding – why does the archetype of all Good Shepherds admonish them to “go, and sin no more”? Christ is adamant that none is good but God and that no way leads to God but the way that lies through the gateway he represents as the way to heaven.
How can there be some “revolutionary” way to accompany people on their way to destruction while taking their false conscience as the guide and never challenging them with Christ’s way, in truth? Conscience literally refers to that which is done with knowledge. But is it knowledge if it turns away from Christ, and Christ is truth?
When Christ meets Saul along the road to Damascus, is it just a pointless coincidence that Saul is stricken with blindness? Or does it betoken the fact that, once his heart has turn to Christ as the way, in truth, what his eyes mistook for knowledge is revealed in its true colors, turning to impenetrable darkness? No longer Saul, but Paul, the one made new in Christ has to rely on others to lead him by the hand to his new destination, which lies not along the way he was going, but in the care of those who live already in the New Jerusalem.
How can this ministry to those blinded by faith be reviled as rigidity or harshness, prideful and hatefully doctrinaire? Judging by Christ’s example, it is his way of ministering to lost sheep. It involves, at first, taking them firmly in hand so that, on the high and rocky road they are now called to walk, they do not tumble into the abyss. Though it may seem rough to hoist them across his shoulders, it proves to be the way of love, in truth, along which way the sinner’s footsteps famously disappear because Christ bears the difficulties he has already borne before, once and for all.
It was Christ in the flesh who made the revolution. What sense does it make for others to pretend there is some need to make it yet again? That this pretension rings false appears to be confirmed by its first fruit, which equates the good conscience of those who trust in Christ with the insights of the blind, who stumble, unrepentant, along the highway to hell. Meanwhile someone who professes to be the Shepherd discourages the thought that Christ has already come to lift his people wholly from it, if they will, that they may follow the only way of life truly renewed. In Christ, in Truth, indeed.