Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Iron Sharpens Iron: Rethinking how Catholics Approach Each Other and the World

A couple weeks back, my principal wanted to talk about a situation at the school.  In essence, our upper grades were taking trash talk to new and really harmful levels.  It had gotten to the point that suspensions were about to be handed out.  I am not talking about the thinned skinned snowflake like tolerance levels that need to be coddled, no, what was being said was just sinful and needed to stop. Certainly, trash talk and worse is a common staple in today's world.  I remember the 'yo mamma' jokes which were fairly cruel.  The trash talk always seemed to escalate.  Favored targets emerged.  It was a lot of time, energy, and mental creativity misused.  It so happened that someone posted the Into the Breech Video from the Diocese of Phoenix (excellent by the way) in which men were called to become the men God has created them to be.  In that video it quoted  Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man does to another."  It stuck in my craw.  It dominated my prayer.  That's when it hit me.

Our school could have handed out punishments which may or may not solve the problem.  Being a realist, it would have driven the behavior underground.  Kids are going to be kids.  We decided a different tact.  We wanted them to take all the energy and time they spent on tearing each other down and redirect that energy and time to building each other up.  They have become keen on identifying each others weaknesses and faults.  We wanted them to use that energy and intelligence to identify each others strengths and gifts.  Furthermore, in the vein that iron does sharpen iron, we want them to not overlook sin, but to know how to call a person to something better than sin.

The school is a beginning.  I expect the same of myself and my parish.  Make no excuse for sin, make every effort to use the grace of God to build up and strengthen.  Think about it.  Wouldn't you want to belong to a parish where our identified goal is to bring out the best in each other and train people how to bring out the best in each other? Wouldn't you want to be part of a group that expected greatness from you and you could expect greatness from? Wouldn't you want a church that is an oasis in the unrelenting negativity, fault finding, gossip mongering, and character assassination that is today's modern culture, entertainment, and politics?  Wouldn't you want to belong to a parish where we understood beyond the shadow of a doubt that to follow and worship God means looking different than the world? Don't be mistaken, I am not talking utopia...I am talking Navy Seal training.  I am not saying quit engaging this world, but engage it in a radically different way.

Is this not the standard Jesus sets in the Gospel?  Does the unity that Jesus prays for on the night before His death, a unity sealed in His own Body and Blood, not come from the members of that Body strengthening each other?  Do we not receive the Body and Blood of Christ so as to become one?  Does unity come from tearing each other down?  Does it come from viewing each other as the enemy or competition? NO, it comes from us utilizing the grace of God to bolster the strengths and address the weaknesses.

We who claim to follow Christ are called to be as different from the secular world, a world quickly repaganizing,  as light is different from darkness.  We cannot be a light to the world if we look like the world.  Make no mistake, there is NO ROOM for sin, no room for gossip, no room for rivalries, no room for ignoring sin, no room for tearing down our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The devil delights in our rivalries and open warfare!  Every time some one makes a snarky remark about different Mass Rituals (legit ones), every time one sees fit to bypass the levels of fraternal correction given in Scripture and turninto a ecclesial TMZ, every time we openly ridicule instead of seeking to call out better...we have to ask ourselves how much different is our actions from a bunch of grade schoolers trash talking?  Do we imagine for a moment that Jesus will not call us to task for ripping apart what He set in His Body and Blood? Yes, there are abuses happening during Masses and they must be addressed.  That said, does calling for better out of the individuals accomplish that end or will ridiculing them?  Is our end to make ourselves feel superior at the cost of running others down?  Perhaps a Catholic should have a higher modus operendi than a thug!

I am excited to see how this goes.  I pray for a significant transformation in my school and parish.  Don't get me wrong, they are great places now, but as a pastor, I should always be aiming for better.


  1. Good idea to turn it around . The students today need the tools in their interaction arsenals to be quick to diffuse sinful talk and behavior from others. They need to be shown that what's cool is finding something nice to say that makes the person feel better about themselves . Find a trait that may have gone unnoticed by others. I taught 6,7,8, grade, all subjects. I know whereof you speak. God bless!