Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
Take courage. Do not be scandalized.
By Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
March 23, 2015

"Cry me a river. I cried a river over you." So many scandals to cry over in the world which daily appear in the media including scandals in the Church but no more than before this age and the reach of instantaneous electronic media. No one is immune. We are all infected by the "original sin" of our first parents, Adam and Eve. Otherwise, we would not be cleansed in the waters of Baptism which even the smallest infant needs. No one is immune.

The innocent may be the most scandalized by evil. The most innocent among us was Jesus Christ who was the most scandalized man to walk the earth which he and his Father created. Yet Jesus was the most forgiving and merciful man among us who forgave the soldier and reattached his dismembered ear who came, sword in hand, to arrest him in the garden of Gethsemane and the dying thief Jesus forgave on a cross alongside his own. We may reasonably wonder, too, why Jesus in his last breathe asked, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34 ). We know, too, that all Jesus' Apostles abandoned him at his arrest but later repented except Judas. Peter "wept bitter tears" and Judas took his own life. (Perhaps, Judas in his last gasp also repented. We do not know. Only God knows). We should all pray for the grace of final perseverance after being warned by Jesus that Satan roams the world "as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:8 ).

In ways we do not understand God is not deterred by scandal but draws good out of evil. The Son of God demonstrated his infinite love and mercy becoming the Son of Man and raising humanity into his own divine nature as brothers and sisters for the sake of our salvation. From sinner to saint, the scandalous Saul of Tarsus became Paul "the Apostle to the Gentiles" who had held the tunics of Jews who stoned to death the first deacon, Saint Stephen, and persecuted other innocent Christians whom Paul admitted he was their "murderer" (Acts 9:1):
    there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria . . . . [and] Saul, brought havoc on the church, entering into every house, and hauling off men and women [and] committed them to prison."
But in an extraordinary act of conversion Saul was drawn up into heaven where God asked, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?." (cf. Acts 7:58 ff). This same Paul later declared that "he was the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace in me has not been ineffective." (1 Corinthians 15:9 ). And Paul single-handedly thwarted the schism and scandal of self-righteous Judaizers in the Church who tried to revert Christianity back to the Old Covenant, have Gentile converts circumcised and follow Mosaic law which Jesus supplanted with his New Covenant of "Spirit and truth." (John 4:24).

We may surely recognize the bad behavior and scandals of many in the faith including Church prelates but only God can judge their hearts. Raising our sights on the perfection of virtue Jesus preached: "Blessed are the poor . . . the mournful . . . the meek . . . the righteous . . . the merciful . . . the clean of heart . . . the peace-makers . . . and the persecuted." (Matthew 5:3-11). And ended his long "sermon on the mount," simply stating, "Stop judging that you may not be judged." (Matthew 7:1). Stop judging others' hearts which only God knows.

Even the self-righteous Pharisees who sought to trap Jesus in scandal – Jesus would not berate them except the arrogant pretenders as sons of Abraham. When the Pharisees, for example, brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus for her condemnation and death by stoning Jesus knew her sin and the sins of her accusers and said, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her . . . . And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders." (John 8:7-11). When Jesus asked the woman "Has no one condemned you? she replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more." (John 8:7-11). Jesus held out hope both for her and her accusers that they would someday repent.

Whatever goodness exists in man it begins with the God of all Goodness and will someday return to him. There but the grace of God go I.

The "beloved disciple" of Christ chronicled the scandalous reception of Jesus in the world. "He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God. (John 1: 10-13). Jesus chose not to be scandalized by "his own" for the love of all.

As we celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the hope of our own resurrection we are "greeted" at Holy Mass: "May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all." [1]

1. The Roman Missal, "The Order of Mass, The Introductory Rites," Renewed by Decree of the Most Holy Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Promulgated by the Authority of Pope Paul VI and Revised at the Direction of Pope John Paul II, Rome: 2002.

© Fr. Tom Bartolomeo


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Fr. Tom Bartolomeo

I am the founder and director of the Families For Families Retreat House, a refuge for anyone who wants to rethink his or her life in a quiet non-demanding environment in an historic house c.1709 when life was less complicated. I am also and primarily a Catholic priest having been a college and university teacher, business-owner and executive among other things. I received my Bachelor's and Master's degrees in English literature from Saint John's University, Jamaica, New York and completed post-graduate studies at Kansas State University. Contact me at (Fr. Bartolomeo passed away on September 18, 2018. His obituary can be found here.)


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