I’ve known of Fr. Paul Nicholson for quite some time. He is on social media and regularly posts videos of homilies. We know some people in common but our paths have never crossed. Yesterday, for the first time, I spoke with him on the phone, regarding a story of Mary Wagner, 40, who was arrested Dec. 23 for civil disobedience at an abortion facility, and has spent much of the past four years in prison for her peaceful protests.
Anyway, the conversation was a good one. Not only was he interesting, but there was the joy in his voice, the quick laugh and self-deprecating humor.
Longenecker takes examples of Our Blessed Lord from the gospels and believes that his winning way was what converted people. He offers us a picture of the loving conviviality of Jesus of Nazareth as a model for the conversion of sinners. It is the same story as Elizabeth Scalia. He tells us that Jesus did not forcefully accuse, nor demonstrate any harsh pronouncements. Thus, we should never correct, never reprove, or never contradict the sinner. This, Fr. Longenecker believes, is the model for Christian leadership.
Let us be very careful of this limited representation of Jesus. The terrible sorrow of the Passion, its degradation and all its humiliaton, is the most forceful denunciation of sin ever preached. Can anyone look at the Passion and not feel the sheer magnitude of guilt that rests on man?
Our Blessed Lord saw the helplessness of man. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, man is subject to the gale force wind of his own passions and appetites. Man does not enjoy the integrity of his first parents. Man is continually fooled by his darkened intellect. He thinks he knows something, but in fact he does not. He even takes to himself the aberration of his sin and identifies himself with the sin, and makes himself a pathetic figure, a freak of nature. He is totally unaware of how the fallen angelic minds, the devil, conspires in malice to destroy man.
As the New Moses, Our Lord could not allow man to follow this parade of slavery. He had to lead man out of darkness and his deranged appetites, his foolish thoughts, his self-identified sin. Our Lord did this, by forcefully arresting the collapse of fallen nature and diabolical oppression. Our Lord had to stand up to the cold, deliberate, determined sinfulness of man. He stood up to it by being destroyed by it. He allowed himself to be ridiculed, reduced to nothing, driven out of the city, exiled from his own people, made a mockery and a malefactor in order to rescue man from the devil, and from his fallen nature.This is Christian leadership: the leader stands up to the monstrosity of fallen nature and accepts whatever horror it throws back at it by standing up and contradicting it. Christian leadership is always painful, for it must follow the Lamb wherever He goes. Christian leadership doesn’t lead parades, it makes the Way of the Cross. A Christan leader allows himself to be seen as nothing and of no account. But the smaller he is, the more authority he has. He becomes the voice of authority percisely because he echoes the still small voice within, the voice of the burdened conscience.
And as for speeches, the Christian leader can only say what Christ himself said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It is in this terrifying abandoned state, lifted up, and rejected, that the Christian leader experiences the victory of Christ; “and when I am lifted up, I will draw all things to Myself.”
To which I say. Wow.