Bob: ICYMI, GF put UGC for FAQ in MMS so u c DIY ASAP. LMK
Mike: TBF IDK i c. OOO RN. TTYL. TGIF!
Today, this could pass for a relatively simple communiqué between colleagues. My parents, both teachers, wouldn’t have a clue as to its meaning. Add the obligatory emojis and, well…you may not even want to know what some people are saying. The free exchange of ideas is difficult enough when people from different cultures, religions, and ways of life espouse conflicting opinions: i.e. the “what” of the debate. It is infinitely harder when we cannot even agree on the language—the “how”—we use to communicate with each other. Take morality, for example: a fraught subject if there ever was one. What I find revealing is not so much what people have to say about this or that hot topic, but how they phrase the discussion. If a person begins, “I feel that…” the discussion is already over. Who am I to take issue with someone’s feelings? Here’s another: “I have a right to…” Two things here. First, “rights” language is a relatively recent idea with a negative connotation, i.e. freedom from constraint: nothing positive or noble. And have you noticed how the rights people are normally concerned with are their own, and rarely those of others? The discussion is anything but altruistic. Still others begin, “What would you do if…?” The problem here is that the individual immediately jumps, without principle or discernment, into action: hardly a recipe for a positive outcome. Ancient thinkers, by contrast, were concerned more with the kind of person one aspires to be, and the qualities a good person demonstrates. Such an individual is not influenced by emotion or personal advantage or artificial rules, but by the desire for excellence, which redounds to the advantage of all.
This week the Church honors Pope St. John I, a sixth-century pope and martyr about whose short reign we know little. Yet the scant evidence we do have illustrates his magnanimity toward an unexpected beneficiary. At the time, orthodox Roman Catholicism was being undermined by Arianism, a heresy that denied the true divinity of Christ. The Catholic Emperor, Justin, exacted harsh penalties against his Arian subjects, while their champion, King Theodoric, resisted these measures. He appealed to Pope John, who besought the Emperor to show mercy upon the “heretics,” not because he agreed with their position but out of charity. The same King Theodoric, far from showing gratitude to the pope, harbored only jealousy toward him and, after having John arrested, allowed him to die in prison in 526 AD.
One wishes there existed a more beautiful portrait of Pope John I than the one we have, but perhaps the example of its subject, a pastor of souls and martyr, is all that is necessary. In our tumultuous world, we might pray for his twofold virtues: bold witness to the truth, and compassion for others. Whatever our differences, love is the language we can all understand.