We live in a world of climate-change deniers, Covid conspiracy theorists, and alternative facts. There is nothing new in this.
In successive Sunday gospel readings for October, Jesus tells two stories. Using images of a vineyard and a wedding feast, he illustrates the absurdity of positions held by the chief priests and elders. ‘Blind Pharisees’ would have to be really blind not to recognise what he’s getting at. Gospel readings for the final two Sundays of the month see them retaliate. Innocent-sounding questions are used to trap Jesus. In 2020 such conversations would be recorded, ready to be leaked to the press. Jesus is as adept in deflecting incriminating questions as he is in defending himself from physical attack. Elsewhere in the gospels he hides himself from those who want to stone him and escapes from those attempting to frogmarch him to the top of a cliff. The message of the gospels is that his enemies will only succeed at a time of his Father’s choosing.
Accounts of conflict in the early Church suggest that some of the first Jewish converts might have been Pharisees who brought their rigid certainties with them. Diehard attitudes to the reception of non-Jewish converts split the Church. Would it be unreasonable to suggest that similar attitudes survive today in those implacably opposed to Holy Communion for the divorced and re-married?
It was reported a few weeks ago that Pope Francis paused in his weekly blessing to call out gossip in the Church, especially within the Vatican. He spoke of the devil as the ‘biggest gossiper’ who is seeking to divide the Church with his lies. ‘Please brothers and sisters, let’s try to not gossip,’ he said. ‘Gossip is a plague worse than Covid. Worse. Let’s make a big effort: no gossiping!’