Jesus came to save all men—his Gospel is “inclusive.” But he also defined what is incompatible with discipleship—his Gospel is “exclusive.” He includes all that is good, and excludes all that is bad. This is the fine line, it seems to me, that our Pope is attempting to trace in America: to be liberal in embracing all men, but conservative in preserving the Gospel from the world’s mendacity. The Pope’s address to the joint session of Congress was “neither liberal nor conservative because it is foremost the speech of a pastor,” wrote a theology professor at Catholic University. Our Pope invoked the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” but went on to say that this rule “reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.” Only by excluding abortion and euthanasia, for example, can we include the most marginalized of our society, that is, very small children and very old adults.
Jesus the Pastor
In the Gospel, Jesus speaks both of inclusion and exclusion. “Teacher,” John says, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” But Jesus forbids John from excluding them. “Whoever is not against us is for us.” My house will be a house of prayer for all nations, Jesus will later declare, and this is Pope Francis’ message. He spoke to all the members of Congress on Thursday; he greeted President Obama with a big smile.
But in the next paragraph Jesus pronounces a necessary exclusion. “Whoever causes a little one to sin—it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck.” That person will be excluded from my company—that person cannot be my disciple—because of what he does. If a member of Congress persists in legislating an occasion of sin—protecting the pornography industry, for example, as some have done, or promoting abortion and suicide—that person has excluded himself from discipleship in Christ. Think of all that causes little ones to sin in our culture, especially the corrupting videos, music, and school curricula. Who is producing this, and who is marketing it? If your hand causes you to sin, exclude it Jesus says—cut it off. Better to enter the Kingdom of God with one hand than with both hands to go to hell. Jesus does not say that the Kingdom of God includes everything, or even everyone. His Gospel is not anything goes or do whatever you want. All are welcome, but many might exclude themselves from his kingdom. Let us take his words quite seriously, if not literally: “if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.”