An Encouraging Word – The sane center

Father J. Ronald Knott

Father J. Ronald Knott

Good sense brings favor. The shrewd always act prudently. Proverbs 13:15,16

There were many strengths and weaknesses about my old-fashioned religious upbringing, but I refuse to join either those iconoclasts who bash all of it as pure hell, as well as those idol worshippers who glorify all of it as pure heaven.

It seems to be symptomatic of our culture these days to side with one extreme or the other. The religious right or the religious left is all right or all wrong. Either Republicans or Democrats are all right or all wrong. Characters in the entertainment business are continuously presented to us as either superheroes or supervillains. A “bad” person never does anything “good” and a “good person never does anything “bad.”

American journalist, Charles Kuralt, who lived from 1943-1997, challenged this tendency a long time ago when he spoke these words. “It does no harm just once in a while to acknowledge that the whole country isn’t in flames, that there are people in this country besides politicians, entertainers and criminals.

“There are a lot of people who are doing wonderful things, quietly, with no motive of greed, or hostility toward other people, or delusions of superiority.”
Jesus was condemned roundly for his refusal to go along with the rigidity of religious leaders of his time. The Gospel accounts tell us: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” and “The good shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in the desert and goes looking for the lost sheep.”

Pope Francis is being roundly condemned for his refusal to go along with the rigidity of some of our religious leaders. Who can forget his scathing speech to the Roman Curia in December 2015 and his constant embrace of those on the margins of the church and society.

Last December, I had the honor of giving the fall commencement address at Bellarmine University and receiving an honorary doctorate. I sat through enough of their commencement addresses — probably thirty — to know that most presenters seemed to speak to those receiving the highest honors and prestigious scholarships or decry the fact that not enough young people go on to higher education. I chose to speak about neither, but encouragingly to “those who struggled and barely made it to graduation.”

In my experience, most people are neither heroes nor villains, but stand somewhere in the sane center. The truth of the matter is there is some bad in the best of us and some good in the worst.

Words commonly attributed to Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero, and referenced by Pope Francis in his December 2015 address to the Curia, reinforces this column’s point. “Every now and then it helps us to take a step back and to see things from a distance. Nothing that we do is complete. … No statement says everything that can be said. No prayer completely expresses the faith. No Creed brings perfection. No pastoral visit solves every problem. No program fully accomplishes the mission of the church. No goal or purpose ever reaches completion. We are laborers, not master builders, servants, not the Messiah.”

To read more from Father Knott, visit his blog: FatherKnott.com.

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