God is love--this is true. Our culture has decided that this means that God is nice. Nice as in tolerant. (And never judgmental.) But the same Bible that says "God is love" says that "God is a consuming fire." It is that "consuming fire" that is coming out with all those "woes" in the Gospel. Harsh words. Intolerant words.
St. Paul threw a few woes of his own around: "Let anyone who thinks he is standing be on guard, lest he fall."
"Woe!" is not a shout of condemnation, but a shout of warning: something is at stake here! Something real. Something precious.
The weird thing is, some people hear a woe where it was never said, and reproach the Church for being too negative on account of it. A few months ago, an item I wrote for the Chicago Tribune's religion blog prompted one commenter to ask why I was condemning him/her to hell--when that condemnation was all in the commenter's imagination. The woes in the Gospel (and in St. Paul) are never directed to the weak, the pitiful, the "sinners." They always target the secure, the established, the self-satisfied, be they "progressive" or "traditionalist."
Now, what about you? When's the last time you heard consuming fire coming from the pulpit?
Take the survey!