Tulips at the Old Parsonage by passionate plantsman Charlie McCormick in the lovely Village of Little Bredy in Dorset.

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

From the Pastor - "Gentle In All His Ways"

A weekly column by Father George Rutler.

King Charles II said that a gentleman is one who puts those around him at ease. Even on his deathbed he apologized to the courtiers in attendance: “I am sorry, gentlemen, for being such a time a-dying.” When William Penn, as a Quaker, would not doff his hat to the King, he asked the monarch, “Friend Charles, why dost thou remove thy hat?” The King answered, “Friend William, in circumstances such as these it is customary for only one man to keep his hat on.”

One would risk glibness if not irreverence to say that Christ was a gentleman, but in His human nature He habitually put those around Him at ease. With protocols from the Heavenly Court, He went to lengths in calming people and caring for their comfort. Never did the Lord “lord over” anyone, and if the occasional hypocrite or unjust judge or weak disciple became nervous in His presence, it was the fault of their guilt, for He never deliberately intimidated or shamed anyone.

Once, when a reporter shouted to the 33rd President: “Give 'em Hell, Harry!” Truman replied, “I don't give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it's Hell.” Our Lord gave people Heaven itself, and if that frightened them it was because their duplicity made Heaven hellish.

In the Resurrection, our Lord kept putting people at ease, saying: “Peace.” “Do not be afraid.” “Why are you troubled?” He went so far as to let the apostles touch His wounds, and He ate a piece of baked fish to domesticate their incredulity. I expect that the only one He did not have to tell to calm down was His mother, who was full of grace.

Jesus had no need to apologize for having taken so long to die, because His very agony was a grace. He did another gracious thing by spending the forty days before His Ascension explaining how all the tangled events of history shaped a picture and how the prophets were prophetic. You can tell how well He taught by the way the apostles later wrote their letters, always with that gentle zeal for souls that makes the term “gentleman” inadequate to describe souls so sympathetic. When He had “opened their minds to understand the scriptures,” He told those in the Upper Room to “stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). We know that Peter listened very carefully, for when he was clothed in that elegant spiritual haberdashery which is sanctifying grace, he delicately told the crowd in Jerusalem that they had acted out of ignorance, but if they repented, the Lord would grant them “times of refreshment,” for the Lord—unbending to evil and fierce in the face of the Evil One—is also gentle in all His ways.

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