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The Greatest Lie

Father Patrick Winslow

The greatest lies always possess an aspect of truth.  Nobody believes a bold-faced lie that lacks even the semblance of truth.  These are the weakest of lies.  Who would believe that two plus two equals seven?  On the other hand, good lies sell themselves.  They are effective and forceful to the degree that they appear to be true. 

I am afraid we find ourselves in the midst of the grandest of lies. One that is in full force.  What makes it especially insidious is that it bears not only the appearance of truth; it bears the appearance of love itself.

What is this greatest of lies?  Simply put, it is the new social doctrine that the greatest commandment is to love thy neighbor.  This lie is so powerful that you may think that I am the deceived one.  You may even be so offended that you are tempted to stop reading this article.  This is the point!  Because the lie so powerfully resembles the truth, it is difficult to see the dishonesty.  This is what makes it the greatest lie.

Yes, we are in fact commanded to love our neighbor.  This is part of the two-fold commandment that Christ gave us when he summed up the Law and the Prophets.  But the lie, the untruth, in this new social doctrine is that love thy neighbor is the greatest commandment.  It is not.   The Lord said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord God with your entire mind, heart and soul; and that the second commandment is like it: love thy neighbor as your very self.  To say that we are to love our neighbor is true.  To say that we are to love our neighbor without regard to God and His plan for the human family is not true.  In short, this formidable lie enlists the truth and beauty of the second greatest commandment to nullify, or subordinate, the first. This leads one to believe that we should love our neighbor even if it means ignoring God.

Consider euthanasia.  Nobody wants to see another suffer a slow agonizing death.  My heart breaks when I see this suffering.  Advocates for physician-assisted suicide are compassionate people.  Doubtless, they believe they are being faithful to the commandment love thy neighbor.  But what about the first and greatest commandment, to love the Lord God with your entire mind, heart and soul?  Is there any regard for God and His plan in euthanasia?  Are we to ignore the first commandment and only obey the second?  I cannot.  As a Christian I must ask if mercy killing is part of God’s plan for the human family.  Do I love God when I end the life he brought into existence?  For Catholic Christians the answer is clear:  no.  The Lord’s two-fold law of love compels me to ease the suffering and console the sick, but not to end their lives. 

Consider abortion.  Nobody wants a woman to be in the position of having an unwanted or difficult pregnancy.  My heart breaks when I see a woman, or a couple, in fear when faced with a challenging pregnancy.  I would love nothing more than to remove the problem.  Doubtless, pro-choice advocates believe they are being faithful to the commandment love thy neighbor in helping to make the problem go away.  But what about the first and greatest commandment, to love the Lord God with your entire mind, heart and soul?  Is there any regard for God and His plan?  Are we to ignore the first commandment and only regard the second?  I cannot.  As a Christian I must ask if an abortion is part of God’s plan for the human family.  Do I love God when I assist in extinguishing a developing life in the womb?  For Catholic Christians the answer is clear:  no.  The Lord’s combined, two-fold law of love compels me to help the woman, the couple and the child, to aid in dispelling their fears, and to help find a loving way forward that minimizes the harm to all involved. 

Consider gay “marriage.”  Nobody wants to interfere with another’s pursuit of happiness.  My heart breaks when I see anyone suffering from isolation and loneliness.  Advocates for gay marriage truly believe they are being faithful to the commandment love thy neighbor when they recognize as spouses those who are emotionally and physically drawn to others of the same sex.  But what about the first and greatest commandment, to love the Lord God with your entire mind, heart and soul?  Is there any regard for God and His plan?  Are we to ignore the first commandment and only regard the second?  I cannot.  As a Christian I must ask if gay marriage is part of God’s plan for the human family.  Am I loving God when I ignore Him, the One who made the human family, as though He has revealed nothing regarding marriage and its essential properties?  For Catholic Christians the answer is clear:  no.  We must take seriously the fact that whenever Jesus was asked about the topic of marriage, He consistently directed us to read the pages of Genesis:  “In the beginning” it was so.  Like a red flag Jesus uses these first words of Genesis to teach us about marriage and its divine construction. And so combined, the Lord’s two-fold law of love compels me to reach out to my brother or sister who for one reason or another is not equipped for a natural marriage, but love does not compel me to undo the divinely constructed reality of marriage. 

We live in the midst of the reign of the greatest lie precisely because it bears such a strong resemblance to the truth.  The social doctrine of our day asks us to love our neighbor to such a degree that we must liberate ourselves from God.  Haven’t we been here before?  Haven’t we been invited to liberate ourselves from the constraints of God already?  Recall the ominous words, “You certainly will not die” if you eat of the fruit of the tree.  I am afraid that we have returned to the Garden of Eden, ironically to the place where marriage was first defined.  I am afraid that we are no match for the greatest of liars.  But I am not afraid for those who stay close to Our Lord who has already crushed the head of the serpent.  The greatest of liars is no match for the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

As Christians we can never forget the words of Jesus:

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” 

Finally, as this article goes forth into the blogosphere I would like to say a word to those who engage in social media.  A few tweets and colorized Facebook pics is hardly Christian persecution.  Here is my advice.  First, thank God for your clarity of vision.  Second, engage when you think you can do some good, always loving God and your neighbor.  Aside from this article I would like to make one further contribution, a new hashtag in response to #loveislove (…which is only partially true.  We all know that there is a difference between how we love our mothers, friends and spouses.)  I propose the alternative hashtag #loveistruth.  Perhaps this can help organize those who seek to address the slick and fashionable lie of loving neighbor to the detriment of loving God.

 
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Father Winslow has served as Pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas since August of 2012.  He also serves the Diocese of Charlotte in the Tribunal.  

Series on the Liturgy (by Fr. Winslow)