Zealots are always negative at heart. They never view anything or anyone who disagrees with them in a positive light. They can never find anything good to say about anyone who disagrees with them. They are so convinced of their own rightness that they feel they have the right to stand in judgment of the rest of the world. And their approach is always negative. It is never to support people in what they are doing, helping them to see anything positive. It is always to correct, judge and condemn.
The zealots who yell out "No!" to the rest of the world never view others with compassion or mercy. They see everything in black and white, good and evil. If you are with them, you are good. If you don't go along with them, you are evil. To the zealots, life is all about rules. They believe in the Nancy Reagan philosophy of "Just say no" to what is wrong. If you can't do that, it's your own fault for being too lazy, too undisciplined, too selfish, etc.
We have seen this played out in spades in regard to those who oppose Amoris Laetitia. The zealots, in their singular capacity to view everything in black and white, see anyone who is in an irregular situation as living in sin, opposed to Jesus Christ and headed to hell. It doesn't matter how the couples got to where they are or how difficult it might be to change their situation. The zealots have little to no concern about the children in these situations. All they see is sin, and their only response is condemnation. As Father Z says, their job is to say no.
Pope Francis looks at those in irregular marriages as those who have gone astray and need help getting back to the right path. His Holiness does not believe in blanket condemnation. He wants us to look at each and every situation individually, discern how people got into the situation they are in, and what it will take to lead them back to Jesus Christ. Pope Francis believes not in condemnation, but in bringing people to salvation, and to do so in the manner of Jesus Christ - with love, compassion and mercy. Pope Francis approaches people with the same positive philosophy as Jesus Christ did:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17).Pope Francis realizes we live in a world in which very few have ever even been witness to a truly good marriage. He realizes that our world puts no importance on life-long commitments. We are told that the most important thing is to be fulfilled, and if you are not fulfilled, then move on. Most in our world don't even know how to truly make a commitment to another person. We have come to believe in a Hollywood world in which we instinctively know who our "soul mate" is and that when we find that person, we will automatically, with little effort, be completely committed to one another. If it becomes difficult and there is too much hard work, then we aren't meant to be with that person and it is time to leave.
To approach such people in a negative, condemning manner will only result in turning them away from the salvation they so urgently need. People will not listen unless they first know that you truly care about them. People want to know that you are at least attempting to understand where they are coming from and the hardships in their lives. Think of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well who was approached by Jesus. When she first saw Him, she immediately rejected Him because she believed that as a Jewish man, he would reject and condemn her. But as Our Lord talked to her without condemnation and in fact showed understanding and compassion for her situation, she was ready to listen to Him. Not only did He not condemn her, Jesus actually offered her eternal life. She was so touched by this that she ran and told everyone she could about this wonderful man.
The Pharisees were pros at saying no to people. That is all they knew, and that is all the people knew of religious authorities. When Jesus came along and gave the people a positive message of salvation, they clung to Him. When Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest", they marveled because they had never heard anything like this before. Here was a man who truly understood them and sincerely cared. He didn't want to condemn them, he wanted to save them.
Look at the blogs and websites of the conservatives / traditionalists. They are filled with judgment and condemnation of the world. There is no compassion, no attempt at understanding. There is certainly no mercy. Do they truly believe that this is fulfilling our commission to preach the gospel to the world? The "Gospel of No" does not serve Jesus Christ. The "Gospel of No" does not save but only pushes people away from salvation. The "Gospel of No" does not emanate from Jesus Christ, but from the adversary.
Does that mean that we never tell people not to sin? Of course not. But first we must we must teach them to love God just as we do. We must help people to want to obey God not out of fear and necessity, but out of love. We must show people the positive aspects of the Gospel by introducing them to the love and mercy of God. We must let them know where true happiness is. If you identify as a Christian, ask yourself why you obey God. Do you do it out of fear? Or do you do it because of your great love of God? I always thinks of the words of the Act of Contrition:
"Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all I am sorry for having offended thee because thou are all good and truly deserving of all my love."That is the key to obedience - it is love of God. If you love God, you will want to do everything you can to please him. Obedience will not be a burden but a joy. Look at the lives of the saints, and especially the martyrs. Their main motivation was not fear of hell but love of God. That is what drove them. They looked at Christ on the Cross and they saw love personified. They were committed to Jesus Christ because they knew of His great commitment to them. They saw a God who gave up heaven to come to earth and die a horrible, painful, shameful death so that they could have life. This is the Gospel they believed in. None of them subscribed to the "Gospel of No." That is why we are still reading the writings of the saints from hundreds of years ago. Their messages are always positive and uplifting, lifting us to the heavens.
Those who live "by the flesh" experience God's law as a burden, and indeed as a denial or at least a restriction of their own freedom. On the other hand, those who are impelled by love and "walk by the Spirit" (Gal 5:16), and who desire to serve others, find in God's Law the fundamental and necessary way in which to practise love as something freely chosen and freely lived out. Indeed, they feel an interior urge — a genuine "necessity" and no longer a form of coercion — not to stop at the minimum demands of the Law, but to live them in their "fullness". This is a still uncertain and fragile journey as long as we are on earth, but it is one made possible by grace, which enables us to possess the full freedom of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:21) and thus to live our moral life in a way worthy of our sublime vocation as "sons in the Son".Pope Francis does not see nor present God's Way of Life as a burden. Pope Francis is so obviously in love with his Savior, and that is what he wants to share with the world. I most certainly do not get that message from those who criticize him. They come across as hard and cruel and uncaring. As St. John Paul II wrote, they present God's way as "a burden, and indeed as a denial or at least a restriction of their own freedom."
I disagree, as usual, with Father Zuhlsdorf. The main job of a priest it not to say no. It is to teach us to say yes to Jesus Christ, to say yes to salvation, to say yes to a life filled with mercy and compassion. The main job of a priest is to teach us to love Jesus Christ. Yes, we need priests to help us walk in the right direction, and to turn us around if we start going the wrong way. But the best way to do that is not by saying no, but by pointing us to Jesus Christ and His great love for us. When we start to comprehend how much God loves us, we will, as St. John Paul II wrote, "find in God's Law the fundamental and necessary way in which to practise love as something freely chosen and freely lived out."
One of the most beloved saints who ever lived - St. Francis of Assisi, from whom Pope Francis took his name - preached one of the most positive messages in all of history. Even who reject God and religion love St. Francis. Why are people so attracted to this great saint? What was his message? What Gospel did he preach?
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.We need to preach the positive message of the Gospel. We need to preach the Love of God. We need to show our Savior to the world. That is what will motivate them to change. Condemnation will never bring anyone to salvation. Obeying God out of fear and necessity will not lead us to salvation. Only love fulfills the law.