by Mark Shea
Tuesday, Aug 12, 2008 3:04 PM Comment
Last time, we
began talking about the problem of how a Catholic should respond to deliberate
acts of desecration of the Eucharist. We discovered that Scripture shows a
curiously double-sided response from Christ and his Church, which I sum up as
"forgive and fight."
This pattern is laid out for us by
Our Lord himself, who forgave his very murderers, and who used the cross to win
the most shattering victory in the history of the universe, defeating all the
powers of hell by means of it.
Depending on the sort of person you
are, either fighting or forgiving may be offensive to you. I'm the sort of
person who finds fighting much easier than forgiving. When we're talking about
deliberate desecration of the Eucharist, choice words spring to mind, and I'm
unhappy to report that I have used some of them with reference to the sort of
person who would do such a thing.
But the Host himself is clear here:
Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. We do not have the option,
as Catholics, of hating those who blaspheme God.
Some Catholics try to wriggle out of
this with the "zeal for the Lord" ploy. This is the trick whereby we say, "Oh,
I'm not cursing and swearing at this jerk on my behalf! I'm just
defending the honor of God." Sorry, but that dog won't hunt. If you identify
with insults given to Our Lord enough to be angry, you must also identify with
him enough to act as he does and forgive. You are obliged to desire for God's
enemies what he himself desires: their redemption. He died for them as well.
On the other hand, some people are
much more offended by the notion that we are to fight. For such people, any
notion of resisting evil whatsoever is equated with vengefulness. So, for
instance, some people were actually critical of the Catholic League for lodging
a complaint about the people who threatened to desecrate the Eucharist. They
felt it was a failure to turn the other cheek as Jesus commanded.
But this is not so. Jesus was not a
doormat or a dart board. He famously resisted evil, even to the point of
turning over the tables of the money changers when his Father's honor was at
stake. He vented his anger at the hypocrisy and malice of the Pharisees in
Matthew 23. And, though he literally turned the other cheek when he was struck
on the face at his trial, that did not keep him from protesting the injustice.
His disciple Paul did likewise.
Obeying the Lord's command to be "wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove"
(Matthew 10:16), Paul dealt with persecution brilliantly, and used even it to
advance the Gospel with complete integrity. We should do the same. Since this
is the Year of Paul, let's use this space to take an extended look at Paul the
Forgiving Warrior and see what we can glean from his life for our own
We don't have to pull our chins and
wonder whether desecration of the Eucharist is evil. It is. People who do it
are doing evil (though their levels of culpability may vary widely). Our job,
however, is not to curse or hate them, but to resist them "in the power of the
Paul took the cosmic perspective
when it came to the struggle with evil. Although fully aware of the human capacity
for evil (it was, after all, humans who committed all that abuse against him we
read about in Acts), he reminded the Ephesians that "We are not contending
against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers,
against the world rulers of this present darkness" (Ephesians 6:12). The most
despicable person you can meet is still one for whom Christ died. We may have
to fight — we may even have to kill — some evil people. But we cannot despise
them. We cannot desire their destruction and damnation. We must continue to try
whatever we can, however small, to seek their salvation.
That means prayer. Because, our task
is to remember that the devil is the real foe. And the real battle is going on
in the spiritual realm far more profoundly than in the visible world. That is
one of the reasons the sacraments — especially confirmation and the Eucharist —
are so vital. For, devils are, in the order of nature, vastly more powerful
than you or me. Without the "armor of God" that comes from the sacraments, from
the practice of virtue and from prayer, we may as well face a fan of
machine-gun fire with a peashooter.
But of course, once we pray, we act.
Next week, we'll talk about some practical courses of action, courtesy of St.