God’s Wholesome Permissiveness
Reflections on forthcoming Mass readings by Tom and April Hoopes.
Sunday, Sept. 27 is the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Pope Benedict XVI will be traveling in the Czech Republic Sept. 26-28.
On Sept. 26 he visits the Infant Child of Prague at the Church of Our Lady Victorious. There is a lot of information online about this miraculous wax statue of the Infant Jesus — there may even be a replica of it nearby you can visit.
On Sept. 28 the Pope says Mass at the memorial of St. Wenceslaus, patron of the Czech Republic. Teach your kids the “Good King Wenceslas” song sung on the feast of St. Stephen.
FaithandFamilyLIVE.com provides information on many of these feast days. Simply type them into the search field.
Sept. 29: Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael — the archangels are perennial favorites for kids.
Oct. 1: St. Thé-rèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower — don’t forget to start her novena on Sept. 23, and see if you get a rose.
Oct. 2: Guardian Angels — Pope Benedict XVI was recently in the news talking about his guardian angel, who he said allowed him to break his wrist to teach him a lesson.
Numbers 11:25-29; Psalms 19:8, 10, 12-14; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
Epriest.com offers free homily packs for priests.
In the marriage-preparation class we took when we were engaged, Tom asked our mentor couple how to keep from spoiling children. The two responded in a way that surprised us at the time, but seems very Catholic in retrospect.
“Spoil them!” said the wife.
“Yes,” said the husband. “Don’t give them what is harmful, but don’t skimp on what is good.”
We notice the same attitude in the Catholic families we most admire.
One dad’s kids were climbing on a small structure in his backyard when someone asked him, “Hey, look what the boys are doing. Should I tell them to stop?”
“Nah,” he said. “They’re fine.” He added that he lets them do what they want as much as possible because he has to deny them so many things that other kids get to do. His boys had lots of limits — on television, video games and movies — but in whatever was allowable, they had free rein.
This kind of “wholesome permissiveness” is exactly what God gives us.
He could have given us a strict religion with lots of rules and regulations. He could have made a very sharp distinction between who was on his good list and who was on his bad list.
In other words, he could have made a pharisaical religion. But he didn’t. Not even Moses, author of the Mosaic Law, had a pharisaical attitude.
When unexpected people are prophesying in the first reading, a man who should have known better, after all the time he has spent with Moses, demands that the patriarch stop them. Moses refuses. “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!” he said.
When a similar situation arises in today’s Gospel, Christ’s followers have the same reaction. But Jesus says, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
It’s easy for Catholics to divide the world into “outsiders” and “insiders.” We put all of humanity into the categories of “non-Catholic” and “Catholic,” or, even more narrowly, “orthodox” and “dissenter.”
These categories aren’t meaningless, certainly, but they aren’t to be used by us to separate the goats from the sheep and the wheat from the weeds. Over and over again, the Gospel tells us that it is God alone who performs that task — and even he doesn’t do it until the afterlife, for which we should be grateful.
The judgments God comes to are not the ones we would come to. But, as the second reading from James points out, that doesn’t mean they are always in favor of those who are judged.
The key is to avoid sin at all costs.
Just like those Catholic families that allow all that is good but not what harms, God’s wholesome permissiveness doesn’t mean that he’s permissive of sin. Quite the contrary. As he himself points out, being drowned tied to a millstone would be better than choosing the actions that land you in the place where “the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”
Tom and April Hoopes were editorial co-directors of Faith & Family magazine.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College
in Atchison, Kansas, and a
former Register editor.