“For heterodoxy does not differ at all from unenlightenment.”

Hilary of PoitiersToday’s Gospel reading from Matthew 10:1-7 concerns the mission Jesus gives to the Twelve and their instructions for that mission.  He tells the Apostles to preach to the Jews but not to go to the towns of the pagans, the gentiles.  This seems to contradict the universal call to salvation.  The original Patristibloggers, the Fathers, tackle this question.

The fascinating St. Hilary of Poitiers (+367) looks at the passage in his work on Matthew.

They are warned to avoid the ways of the Gentiles, not because they were never going to be sent for the salvation of the Gentiles, but because they were to avoid the works and lifestyle of the unenlightened Gentiles.  They were forbidden to enter the towns of the Samaritans.  Yet, did he not cure the Samaritan woman?  They were warned, moreover, not to go into the assemblies of heretics.  For heterodoxy does not differ at all from unenlightenment.  Therefore they were being sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, who raged against Him with the tongues and jaws of wolves and vipers.  At any rate, the law was due to receive the special benefit of the Gospel.  The less excuse Israel had for its ungodly behavior, the more zeal it might have in heeding the warning.  (On Matthew 10.3 – SC 254:218)

St. Jerome also examines this passage and tells us:

This passage is not contrary to the command given later: “Go therefore, and make disciplines of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The former command was given before the resurrection and the latter after the resurrection.  It was necessary to announce Christ’s first coming to the Jews, lest they have a good excuse for saying that the Lord rejected them because He had sent the Apostles to the Gentiles and the Samaritans.  In line with the metaphor, we who call ourselves Christians are advised not to walk in the ways of the Gentiles and heretics, for they have not only a separate religion but also a separate way of life. (Commentary on Matthew 1.10.5-6 in CCL 77:65)

There is a wise point in this that would be good to heed. 

Consider the effects of dissent on the spiritual life of both individuals and groups in the Church.  Consider the absolutely pernicious and eroding effect of the relabeling of evil and wicked sins as “alternative lifestyles”.

We who call ourselves Christians must be on guard against the unenlightened, the heretic, and the wicked. 

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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