Maidstone, 28th August 2011
Dear disciples of Jesus Christ.
Probably only once in the history of the church the pope was called Satan. By God. In today’s Gospel Jesus said to Simon Peter: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Mt 16:23). Thinking about this, I’d like to say just three words concerning criticism.
1. Firstly: God is not afraid of criticism.
In the first reading prophet Jeremiah says:
You have seduced me, Lord and I have let myself be seduced; you have overpowered me: you were the stronger. (Jer 20:7 NJB). Inanother translationwe read: You deceived me, LORD, and I was deceive (NIV).
Why did God allow these words to be written?
In The Book of Psalms we read: Why do you reject my soul, LORD, and hide your face from me? (Ps 88:15) or Awake! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Rise up! Do not reject us forever! (Ps 44:24)
In the Bible we find a lot of similar words. The people were not afraid to accuse God or to criticize him. Why did God allow these words to be written? Because God is not afraid of criticism. Because God prefers sincerity to hypocrisy.
2. Secondly: God is not afraid of saying difficult things.
Ha said through the prophet Isaiah:
Your meetings I utterly detest; to me they are a burden I am tired of bearing. When you stretch out your hands I turn my eyes away. You may multiply your prayers, I shall not be listening. (Isa 1:15-16)
Ha said through the prophet Malachi:
’And now, priests, iIf you will not listen, if you will not sincerely resolve to glorify my name, says Yahweh Sabaoth, I shall certainly lay a curse on you and I shall curse your blessing. (Mal 2:1-2)
Even in the Gospel we can read:
Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of corruption.
God is not afraid of saying difficult things. God is not afraid to criticize. Why? What for? Because God prefers to save people even by hard means than to be polite at any price. Because God is like a doctor who tells patients the truth even though they don’t like it.
3. Lastly: God teaches how to criticize constructively.
Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the great log in your own? […] Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye. (Mat 7:3.5)
This is the first rule. If you want to criticize others, start by criticizing yourself.
The second rule is:
If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. (Mat 18:15).
The third rule is: If we wish to criticize publicly we must keep it generally. Jesus criticized the scribes and Pharisees without singling out any individual. Jesus criticized them generally knowing that not all were wrong.
The fourth rule is: If the evil is public we can react publicly. And criticize even by name. Saint Paul wrote in his letter to Galatians:
When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong. For, until some people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to draw back and separated himself, because he was afraid of the circumcised. (Gal 2:11-12).
The fifth rule is: Temper any criticism with love. If you don’t love, don’t criticize. Sometimes God says hard things but he loves people more than anyone. Sometime parents are forced to criticized the child but it is done with love. Saint Paul criticized Peter not because he didn’t love him or because he wanted to destroy him. Paul loved Peter, the church and the truth.
Dear disciples of Jesus Christ.
If God is not afraid of criticism why should we be? If Saint Peter was not afraid of criticism why should we be? The truth is not afraid of anything, neither the truth nor the lie.
We know that the issue of criticism is delicate. But we cannot forget that criticism is a good step towards development. Anyone who is afraid of criticism will never progress.