The violent take the kingdom by force

Anthony Zimmerman
For Catholicmind
February 28, 2005
Reproduced with Permission

Dear Readers: For your information I am back in Japan after six months in the USA for health reasons. Thanks be to God I am alive at age 87, and am recovering from two heart attacks which were treated promptly and well, and from a stroke which somewhat lames my left arm, but ability to type with it is improving. Thank you for prayers, and let us continue to praise the Lord for His goodness. I herewith take up again the commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew, making use especially of modern commentaries, and those of St. John Chrysostom, and St. Thomas Aquinas.

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. Let anyone with ears listen! (Mt. 11:12-15}.

What is taking the Kingdom by force, asks Chrysostom, (Sermon 40 on Matthew). "All who approach it with earnestness of mind," he responds. Earnestness is the key word. Adam and Eve had once trifled with God by not earnestly clinging to the tree of life, For this they suffered serious consequences. The Israelites whom Moses led into the desert rebelled against God's plan for them, and were denied entrance into the promised Land. All the rebels who were age twenty and above and should have known better were doomed to die in the desert. Jeremiah pleaded with the people of Jerusalem to mend their ways lest they suffer exile. They refused to abandon their sinful ways and the Babylonian Exile followed.

What would Chrysostom say today about approaching the Kingdom of God with earnestness? Probably he would review the Ten Commandments. Atheists fall short of doing the earnest endeavor that is needed to enter God's kingdom. Flowing with the crowd, they avoid doing battle with the fashion of the day, and fail to make the serious effort required to enter God's kingdom as promulgated by Christ. They will not enter into the eternal joys of the Lord if they persistently and knowingly choose to ignore Him in this life. Atheists sin against God's First Commandcfment.

We think also of the multitudes who ignore God's command, thou shalt not commit adultery - who are unfaithful, who indulge in sex outside of marriage, who practice contraception and/or contraceptive sterilization. To earnestly seek the kingdom of God, they need to abandon such disobedience and confess their sins. The same holds for those who kill, such as terrorists and abortionists. Without doing violence to themselves by abandoning the fashion of disobeying one or the other of the Ten Commandments, they cannot enter the kingdom of God and hope to become heirs of the joys of heaven, God is patient and waits for all to do so while they walk through life. We do them a great favor if we give them a hand.

My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner's soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).

It is possible to obey the Ten Commandments

Some years ago a prominent Catholic doctor told that a cure for AIDS must be found because it is not possible for people accustomed to cultural sex abuses to modify their behavior. He was totally wrong. Recent reports from Uganda demonstrate that such is not the reality of human life. When Museveni became leader of Uganda in 1986, thousands of citizens were dying each month from AIDS-related diseases. So he started to "beat the drums" that sex is not worth dying for (Reader's Digest Sept. 2004). The traditional drum beating was done all over the nation several times a day to announce the news coming via radio and TV that sex is not worth dying for, that citizens can protect themselves. AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease, was the burden of the message. Orders went out to every minister and public official to speak about the subject. Embarrasment was not sufficient reason to silence the shouting that AIDS comes from sexual intercourse.

Every level of society got involved, from sports teams to pop groups to traditional healers. Facts about AIDS were taught in almost every classroom. Churches ran vigorous campaigns for youth to delay first sex. By 2000-2001, 97 percent of married men and 88 per cent of married women were faithful to one partner. Juveniles and even soldiers got the message too.

Fidelity has become the norm in Uganda. The United Nations hailed Uganda as the great success story of our day in the battle against AIDS. Other nations should take note. As Museveni said, when a lion is in the house, it is necessary to shout.

If ancient cultural behavior was successfully modified in one nation, we should take courage in currently in sex-obsessed America that we can also change our devious culture. Sex behaviors that transgress God's Sixth Commandment are not for us. Contraception, contraceptive sterilization, and sex among juveniles and outside of marriage must go. The Pill Industry aggressively popularized devious sex since the 1960's, and Father Charles Curren led rebellion against the Sixth Commandment among Catholics in 1968. Since then, AIDS has spread pandemically, and even worse, sexually transmitted diseases spread like a prairie fire among the unmarried young.

Thanks be to God, abstinence programs are a growing success story in the USA. Still, we need to do more shouting and beating of drums, following the lead of Uganda. During Lent especially we should bring to the Confessional Catholics who have fallen into the contraceptive and sterilization fashion. A good Confession wipes out sin, turns souls into the brilliant beauty of newly fallen snow, For many couples who have succumbed in the past, the menopause makes contraception meaningless now, and the way back to God beckons them. The Sixth Commandment was never easy to keep, but God requires us to keep it nevertheless as a condition for eventual entrance into heaven. Abstinence should be shouted in Catholic school classrooms and corridors. Girls in Catholic schools should learn their cycles well, for knowledge generates power. The admonition of Pope John Paul II should be trumpeted in parishes, namely that the young be given access to knowledge about the bodily cycles of fertility. Keeping the Sixth Commandment must become the pride of the Church in the USA as in all the world. Now back to Matthew.

"For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came."

By this Jesus announces that the last prophet has spoken, and now the prophesies are fulfilled in Himself. Christ then emphasizes that John's message was in harmony with His own:

"But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon'; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds" (Mt 11:16-19).

Jesus blames those who do not choose to follow His message for acting like children who do not use common sense, who act irrationally. They simply make up their minds to be quarrelsome and refuse to use common sense. As Chrysostom spoke:

And He implies that there was nothing that ought to have been done for their salvation, and was omitted; which thing the prophet saith of the vineyard; "What ought I to have done to this vineyard, and have not done it."

John was the abstemious type, who nevertheless preached the same truth about the kingdom as did Christ. Christ was the more relaxed type, who likely enjoyed wine with His meals as was culturally a part of the life of His people. Note that Jesus did not stop drinking wine just because some of the people chose to be scandalized by that. Even at the Last Supper wine flowed according to the traditional ritual. And Christ chose to perpetuate His sacrifice on the cross under the species of bread and wine - bread being a symbol of nourishing food, wine a symbol of His joyous self, who shares His joys with us. Some people chose, at Christ's time, to be scandalized by the fact that He drank wine, whereas John did not; and some people today use grape juice instead of wine at rituals. Jesus tagged such behavior as childish. He enjoyed God's gifts in a relaxed manner. Thanks be to Him, the Church is happy to see her children enjoy God's gracious gifts. Blessings!