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Father Vincent Hawkswell

Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing

Voices Jan. 28, 2019

Those whose job involves dealing with others’ faults, from tow truck drivers to police officers, can be constantly tempted to rejoice in wrongdoing, writes Father Hawkswell. (Wikimedia)


4th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
First Reading: Jer 1:4-5, 17-19
Second Reading: 1 Cor 12:31-13:13
Gospel Reading: Lk 4:21-30

Love “does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth,” we hear in this Sunday’s Second Reading. Is this not obvious? Does it need to be said?

When I was editor of The B.C. Catholic, I often got letters condemning the world’s evils. Some of the writers used the most hateful language possible, clearly enjoying their own condemnation, actually seeming to rejoice in the evil.

There are many possible reasons. For example, we can rejoice in wrongdoing because, in condemning it, we build ourselves up as we put others down. This is what we do when we enjoy the fact that no one else can do the job as well as we can, or that so-and-so, with all his qualifications, has made a mistake.

For people who have the job of correcting what is wrong, the temptation can be constant: for teachers to rejoice in ignorance instead of knowledge; for lawyers, in altercation instead of agreement; for police officers, in crime instead of obedience to the law; for prison guards, in captivity instead of freedom; for doctors, in disease instead of health; for priests, in sin instead of holiness. Even tow truck drivers might rejoice in black ice or illegally parked cars!

A priest I know asks penitents to say the Our Father, meditating especially on the words “thy kingdom come.” I used to wonder why, but then I began to ask just how much we want God’s kingdom to come.

In that kingdom, where everybody is good, what will we do? Will we stand out in any way? Will we be somebody special, or will we just be one of the crowd? Do we, in fact, rejoice that everybody has faults, so that we can show how good we are?

Sometimes the temptation to rejoice in evil is even more subtle: we rejoice in what is wrong because, in condemning it, we show clearly that we are on God’s side. The more violently we condemn it, the nearer we feel to God. We are especially caustic about the sins we are never tempted to commit, and much more understanding about our own.

We must always battle evil, but we must remember that “a man’s anger does not fulfill God’s justice.” We must fight like soldiers who have been called to repulse an enemy, who ask nothing more than to defeat him and then get back to the real business of living; not like mercenaries who rejoice in war, who make war their life’s work, who would lose their occupation if war were eradicated.

If a family member did something wrong, I would want to keep it secret. My motive would not be merely shame, or a desire to spare my brother criticism. Those would be part of my motive, to be sure, for detraction (the telling of another’s faults when it is not necessary) is a sin.

However, there would also be sadness, a reluctance to treat what had happened as though it were normal, a desire to put the wrong behind me and get on with my life.

Now the Church is one family; we are members of one body. Sickness in any member affects the whole body, so no one can completely dissociate himself from it.

A family member who is sick must be cured. If the sickness is infectious, he might have to be isolated. If it is serious enough, he might even die.

However, sickness, isolation, excommunication, and death are occasions for grief, not joy. That is why the Church sometimes waits so long before she excommunicates or condemns anyone. In love, she is “always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes,” as St. Paul says.

Let us pray today for the grace to love all sinners while continuing to hate all sin, remembering to remove the beam in our own eyes before we tackle the splinters in others’.

Father Hawkswell teaches Catholic Faith - in Plain English, a free course on the Catholic faith from now until Pentecost: every Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the John Paul II Pastoral Centre, 4885 Saint John Paul II Way (just off 33rd Avenue between Oak and Cambie) and twice every Monday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. Anthony’s Parish, 2347 Inglewood Avenue, West Vancouver, and from 7 to 9 p.m. at the John Paul II Pastoral Centre. Everyone is welcome, Catholic or non-Catholic.  For more info and the list of topics and dates, visit rcav.org/adult-catechesis-course.