Thursday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
(Romans 14:7-12; Luke 15:1-10)
A recent decision by Pope Benedict has created a roe among Catholics. Two weeks ago the Vatican announced that it would set up ecclesiastical structures by which whole dioceses of Anglicans continuing their own traditions might be accepted into the Roman Catholic Church. Liberal Catholics are responding to the announcement with consternation for they see acceptance of these Anglicans as strengthening the conservative positions against homosexual sex and women’s ordinations. Of course, conservative Catholics see the development as a positive step toward Christian unification. What would St. Paul say of all this?
The reading from Romans today is part of a long passage addressed to the problem of “strong” or liberal Christians (probably the Gentile Christians) and “weak” or conservative Christians (probably Christians of Jewish origin). In Paul’s time an issue is dietary customs, e.g., whether a Christian has to observe the customary fast days of Wednesday and Friday. In the passage Paul exhorts his readers to avoid judgment on these matters but to allow each person to live according to her or his conscience. Of course, Paul does not condone everyone doing what he or she pleases. After all, it is the Lord who speaks to us through consciences being informed by valid interpretation of His word.
Today Paul would likely give thanks that at least part of the Anglican community is being reconciled with the Church. In any case he would chastise those who continually harp at Vatican decisions as too conservative or, in rare cases, too liberal. Rather, he would exhort each side of an issue to be more considerate of the other’s perspective. This means that we search for the value of what those who disagree with us are saying and, unless the situation becomes outrageous, accept the other side as brothers and sisters in the Lord with the assurance that the Lord himself will ultimately judge what is right.