Summer swimming lessons for me were a love/hate affair. Saturday were supposed to be leisurely with morning sleep-ins, but I showed up like every other skinny kid, shivering with dread at the prospect of jumping into a cold and uncaring city park pool. Thankfully, the fright of cold decreased as one’s productive activity improved and knowing that we were getting somewhere made the experience worthwhile.
I read ever-alarming news about the troubled waters besetting the Bark of Peter. In an online article published today*, Pope Francis is accused of hiding sexual predator priests and bishops. We are already aware that bishops are slipshod in their efforts to weed out heretical wolves preying on the sheep with heresies like Marxism, Socialism and Communism. Not to mention the liturgical confusion over how God’s people are to worship Him in spirit and in truth, while canon lawyers and Church leaders can’t decide which form of the mass is acceptable.
St. Paul begs us to forgive the scandalous sinner, but under condition that the sinner’s suffering inflicted on him by the community becomes a heavy burden, in which case “you should now relent and support him so that he may not be crushed by too great a sorrow” (2 Cor. 2:6). But Scriptures here presupposes several things: that the sinner is a member of the community, contrite and willing to undergo correction, that one wants to put God first and not themselves. In the particular case of Catholic teaching on receiving the Eucharist without manifest grave sin, those causing scandal appear neither to suffer from excessive public opprobrium nor seem inclined to change their scandalous behavior or attitudes. No one should judge the sinner with declarations about their ultimate end; God alone claims that knowledge. But the sinful actions themselves ought and must be judged because they remain deleterious to the faithful.
What is the practicing Catholic to think and do in these troubled times? For one thing, we would do well to learn from them, realizing that our freedom requires ongoing vigilance. Without prayer and sacrifice from the faithful, we could well drown in our own sins. Humility and charity also demand that we keep ourselves accountable to God. It is easy to excuse self-indulgence when the majority around us are doing the same. So, if you see your neighbor sinking rather than swimming, are you going to imitate him? Of course not. God will always remain faithful, but when we are not, is it really worth risking the fires of Gehenna?
Alas! I cannot locate the inspiring passage from St. Augustine where he exhorts us while on the way to salvation to sing. Sing praise to God with thanks, he says, and sing to encourage one another that all might persevere. Share your joy and peace that come from the Holy Spirit for your sake and that of others on this arduous and dangerous journey. Sing, or if I may misquote him, swim! Swim upstream, and swim well! The destiny makes every effort worthwhile.