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Pastor’s Corner 2.11.2024

Tolerant Without Discarding Truth

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

The first reading today reveals how horrible it must have been to be marked as a “leper”. The ancient animus against the leper is evidenced in the passage from Leviticus: “The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’… He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”

Imagine how such a person must have felt; imagine the miserable life they endured being banished from communal life, looked at as someone despicable. In the Gospel, a leper approached Jesus seeking healing. Jesus touched him – certainly a forbidden gesture as prescribed by the communal health standards – and proceeded to heal the man.

Who are the lepers of our day? Who are the ones that are seen by the larger society as dangerous and despicable? There are in fact people who, because of their behavior, are truly dangerous, such as those intent on bringing harm or engaging in violent actions against others. Terrorists and violent criminals can of course pose a risk to society at large. Drunk drivers threaten others on the roadways and gangs can engage in violent attacks which injure or kill innocent bystanders.

But sometimes we tend to demonize people simply because they are different than we are or because they do not think or act like we do. St. Paul tells us: “Avoid giving offense… just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

We should be tolerant of people, but tolerance does not mean discarding truth or abandoning our principles. Generally speaking, tolerance means a willingness to engage people with good faith, meeting people where they are and being willing to listen to their perspective. Tolerance does not mean accepting everything that others propose, but it implies an openness to respectful dialogue.

Dialogue, of course, demands two-sided conversation, both sharing and listening. Sometimes dialogue changes minds and other times we must simply agree to disagree. Truth is the foundation on which loving relationships are built. Denial that there is such a thing as objective truth makes genuine dialogue difficult.

Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,