I recently had a contentious exchange with a provocateur who is an unregenerate liberal and fallen-
away Catholic. She seems to delight in stirring people up. Like many who reject the faith, she is antagonistic toward the Church of the apostles. If anyone speaks to her about something religious, she presumes they are trying to convert her or are making a judgment about the state of her soul. (As my mom used to say, "A guilty conscience needs no accuser.") However, she will speak about her own ethical and political beliefs and take offense at disagreement. When disagreements she often believes it's the other person's fault.
Reflecting on this, I keep thinking of a little boy who goes past a fenced yard where a dog is innocently playing with his toy. The little boy starts teasing the dog and poking a stick through the fence getting a charge out of the dog's increasingly agitated reaction. That is how I feel about my friend, the provocateur. Are her provocative statements and below the belt punches subconscious or are they deliberate? Whichever they are, they damage her relationships.
Think of the fence around the yard as the boundary between the city of God and the city of man. The dog is a citizen of the city. The little boy with the stick is one who is antagonistic to the city and its King, Jesus Christ. The gate to the city is easily entered by those who love the King and want to use their free will to obey His Commandments. The people inside the city would like the boundary of their territory to expand until the whole world is inside where all people will find peace, love, and joy. But they will never use force to bring that about.
But many outside love the world and its allurements (and empty promises) and choose to remain there. Some are people of good will who just don't know about the city of God. They have no ill will toward the residents inside the city walls and don't realize the King, whom they love, lives there. They would no doubt happily enter if they just knew and understood that the King wished it and how welcome they would be. The residents work to reach them through evangelization. They go out into the conflicted world as missionaries trying to meet people there and invite them to become citizens of the city.
Others outside, however, feel threatened by the residents. And, in fact, many hate them. Like the boy with the stick, they stand outside verbally and physically abusing the citizens. Some will even kill anyone they can reach. But even if they don't resort to that level of violence, they will provoke and persecute the residents of the city and try to silence them lest the people in the world around them listen, hear, convert, and enter the city.
More and more, Christians are surrounded by provocateurs: at work, in our extended families, even at church where many don't believe the creed they profess on Sundays. It is a challenge and an invitation. I look at the situation with my provocateur friend and think I should have handled the situation, not the first, more patiently and more humbly. At the same time, I don't think anyone has an obligation to stand still while someone pokes him with a stick.
Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us.