How many times have you criticized your fellow Christians today about any number of things? “So and so” is annoying, lazy, cheap, boring, conniving, promiscuous, etc. We all fall into the trap of criticizing our brothers and sisters from time to time. Some even tend to criticize our priests, bishops and the pope for numerous things. If we got to meet Jesus, would we criticize Him in the same way? Would we say, “Your rules are too tough”, “You better change with the times”, “Your priests are all a bunch of perverts”, “How come you’re always asking for money”? Somehow, I don’t think we would…do you agree?
What is the difference between criticizing Jesus and criticizing the members of His Church? Saul of Tarsus (later to be known as St. Paul) was a staunch persecutor of Christians. He was relentless in making sure that the early Christians were punished for their beliefs. On the other hand, he never did anything to Jesus, just His followers…correct?
On the road to Damascus, when Saul encountered the risen Lord, Jesus said to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4) Saul then asked Him, “Who are you, sir?” and Jesus replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:5). Note that Our Lord never accused Saul of persecuting Christians or His Church, instead saying “Why are you persecuting Me?”
When we attack another Christian or criticize the Church, we are actually attacking or criticizing Christ (as all members of the Church are part of the “mystical” Body of Christ). On those occasions where we need to point out someone’s immoral behavior, we need to always be charitable and do it kindly – with the intention of actually helping them. Once we start gossiping about others (especially behind their back), we are walking on “thin ice”.
I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to hear someday is, “Gary, Gary, why did you persecute me?”