Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
The second reading at Mass this Sunday, quoted above, often seems like one of the most-ignored exhortations of the New Testament. This attitude towards others is essential to Christianity, but too, too often it is replaced with attitudes that are pseudo-Christian at the most.
What kind of attitudes are these? The attitude that is adopted by proponents of modesty who rip into other people for not living up to their standards. The attitude that is adopted by proponents of reverence in the liturgy who rip into other people for preferring the less-reverent. The attitude that is adopted by proponents of large families who rip into other people for not having "enough" children.
To support things like modesty, reverence, and large families are, of course, important. But if you're doing this aggressively, divisively, and without compassion, you are not doing Christ's work anymore. You are rupturing the bond of His people by acting so contemptuously of your fellow Catholics... your brothers and sisters.
The unkindnesses and vitriolic words that are exchanged by Catholics to one another is an absolute scandal. It is far more scandalous to those within the Church who are seeking perfection and those outside the Church who are seeking the truth than almost any issue that is argued about. The saints have said it again and again throughout time: charity is the foundation of every other virtue. When we throw charity out the window, no amount of crusading for modesty or reverence is going to bring us one inch closer to sanctity.
There's another epistle of St. Paul where he says some things that we're all very familiar with. Unfortunately, our tendency is to apply these words to people and situations that we love, and not to the ones where we really do need the reminder: the ones that we think are wrong.
In 1 Corinthians 13, St. Paul makes it very clear. No matter what you're doing, saying, or supporting, if you don't have charity you are a clanging gong. If you don't have charity, it profits you nothing. If you don't have charity, you are nothing.
And that includes things like supporting modesty, reverence, or large families. If you are speaking in support of those things, but without charity, then there is no light of Christ shining from you. You are a clanging gong, and you are nothing.
It's not always an easy thing to recognize, but it's too true for comfort: the devil likes to trap us in our virtues. If he can't get us any other way, he will use our zeal for truth to bring us down.
If discussing certain topics like modesty tends to make you angry, unkind, bitter, or proud, then step away from those discussions for awhile and lose yourself in Christ. Focus on letting His love grow in your heart. You won't be doing Him a disservice by backing away. If you haven't been acting with charity, you haven't been doing His work anyway, and chances are you've done far, far more harm than good.
Really look at those words of St. Paul's again. Ask yourself: is this how I live and act? Be honest. I'll be right there with you, doing some serious soul-searching myself.
...with all humility and gentleness,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace...