A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,but only in expressing his opinion.
We live in a world full of opinions. And the internet has amplified the number of opinions we hear each day. People who used to grouse about life to their best friend or next-door neighbors now have websites, blogs, and social media accounts through which they can announce their opinions on any given subject to the world.
“I can be silent no more!” This sentiment is widespread, as if typing out our grievances will somehow solve the world’s problems. The democratizing force of the internet makes us all feel like our opinions are much more valuable than they really are.
It sounds harsh but most of our opinions don’t really matter. The only thing that matters is truth and action, and that is not the same as opinion. Of course, the problem is that we often confuse having an opinion with knowing the truth. We step onto our soapboxes and pontificate as if we have a full and comprehensive understanding of the truth. But we don’t.
The closest we can get to knowing and understanding truth is to enter and live within the Church. Like a mother, the Church takes us close to her breast and feeds us the milk of truth. But this truth is not given to us to wield against others like a whip. Rather, as Saint Paul tells us, we are called to speak “the truth in love” so that we may “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph 4:15).
Paul’s image of “growing up” is right on target. We remain as children if we do not learn the art of speaking boldly both truth and love. If we emphasize one rather than the other, we are still being called to a greater maturity in Christ. And most of us will admit that we do not speak the truth in love perfectly. As humans, we almost never speak a full truth to another person, at least not the Truth that is a person, Jesus Christ.
Instead, we speak a mishmash of opinion, truth, lies, and love all at once. We often don’t realize it. But once in a while, God reveals to us how little we actually know. It is a mercy when he does this because we are revealed to ourselves in our nakedness. For “no creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account” (Heb 4:13). Only when we realize our nakedness can we cling more closely to Christ in the Church and trust in his guidance.
Though it is woefully unpopular to say, the Church does not need our opinion in matters of faith and morals. She is not a democracy. Even if some of us find ourselves in disagreement with Church teaching or we disapprove of something a pope has said, we often can find maturity and truth in doing something our egoistic, self-centered world disdains: remaining silent. As the book of Sirach tells us, “There is a man who keeps silent but is wise” (20:1).
The Church needs us to speak the truth in love, but She does not need our correction in matters of faith and morals. The Holy Spirit corrects the Church, and he taps people like Saint Paul, Saint Catherine of Siena, and Saint Athanasius to play the part. But it is doubtful that the Holy Spirit needs the voice of every Catholic with a blog and a Twitter account to set things straight. In fact, it seems likely that the devil uses our obsession with such matters to distract us from what really matters.
What the Church does need is our holiness. She needs us to preach the Gospel to all creatures (Mk 16:15). She needs us to pull our eyes away from the internal politics of the Church and focus our eyes on spreading the Gospel and the Body of Christ. The Church needs us to desire and thirst for sanctity.
In the words of Saint Paul, the Church needs us to “increase and abound in love [for] one another…so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God” (1 Thess 3:12-13).