St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica, Toronto, ON February 9, 2020 –“You are the light of the world,” Jesus says in today’s gospel. We are a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. We are a lamp that gives light to all in the house. Really? You’d never know that from the modern media. When is the last time we saw a positive story on the Catholic Church in any mainstream newspaper or any nightly newscast?
It’s difficult to argue that the Church is a beacon of light when all we ever hear about are the sins of some of our members. There are wonderful exceptions, excellent newspapers and we’ve actually got several amazing journalists in this parish but the line we basically get from the mainstream media is that the Church is evil, that she wants to put everyone in a cage of guilt, shut down science, and cancel everyone’s human rights. The world takes great pains to create these impressions in the minds of the gullible. The facts, however, without media spin or anti-Christian bias, may suggest otherwise.
What kind of world was this before the Lord Jesus founded the Catholic Church? Well, let’s take a look at how the poor were treated in the ancient world. A well-educated pagan in ancient times viewed the poor with contempt. Charity in ancient times, if it could be called charity, was for boosting one’s reputation by putting a donor’s name on a temple or gymnasium. Classical philosophers saw mercy towards others as a pathological defect of character, the impulsive emotional response of an ignorant fool. Even someone as educated and refined as Plato proposed in his ideal republic that the problem of poverty be solved by tossing beggars right out of the republic.
It’s easy to take the Catholic Church for granted today but without Christianity entering history we would have no social programs, no social conscience, no hospitals, no universities, no publicly funded schools, no social welfare, no safety net for the poor or disadvantaged. The government loves to take credit for all of these things but the history of compassion in western civilization long predates Canadian confederation.
This history of compassion begins with the Judeo-Christian tradition culminating with the Lord Jesus who simply commands us to love one another. The Lord Jesus does not say “cursed are the poor” but “blessed are the poor.” He says to the rich young man that he must sell everything and give it not to the government but to the poor. He condemns to eternal judgement those who do not feed the hungry or welcome the stranger. He says that what we do to the least in society we do for him.
Another example of something the Catholic Church gets no credit for: science. Not only did the Church create the philosophical possibility of modern science but dozens of priest-scientists actually founded branches of modern science, including paleontology, modern atomic theory, chemistry and geology, with critical advances in astronomy, physics, medicine and other sciences. A Catholic monk founded modern genetics and other clerics have invented everything from combustion engines to wireless voice transmission. So, when you’re driving your comfortable SUV down the DVP – thank a Catholic priest. Unless it’s a Tesla.
To say nothing of the Church’s contributions in art, literature, music, architecture and even the preservation of indigenous languages. A Catholic priest is the founder of International Law. The idea of universal human rights does not come from the American Declaration of Independence or the French Revolution but from the Church’s Code of Canon law and the defence of indigenous peoples in South America against the Spanish conquistadors.
Despite all of these historical facts an army of academics today claims that we caused the Dark Ages, that we are against human rights and would like to quash science and learning. They do this by cherry-picking their evidence, blaming Jesus for the faults of Judas and sometimes even promoting outright lies.
“No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.” These words of Jesus are not to encourage us to be triumphalistic about it, especially considering the sins of some people who claim to be Christian, but we need to shine out our light for the world to see. The world needs to see that with the Lord Jesus there is a fundamental breach with the world as fundamental as knowledge from ignorance, wisdom from superstition and light from darkness.
This breach continues today. We as a Church are practically the only ones who advocate against killing unborn children, the elderly or the disabled under the deception of “medical assistance.” Whether it’s fidelity in marriage, sexual morality, the defence of human life or keeping holy the sabbath, we are light in this world, holding up a high standard befitting the children of the greatest God. Sometimes we stick out like sore thumbs – but if we’re following the gospel, we should.
“You are the light of the world,” the Lord says. “A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.” There is no institution in history that is as glorious as the Catholic Church. We need to be humble because of some of the horrifying things done by a very few; but we must also celebrate the salt and light we are in this world. God bless.
About the CCRL
Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. The CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization with a large nationwide membership base. The CCRL is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
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For further information:
Christian Domenic Elia, PhD
CCRL Executive Director