One of my guilty pleasures is reading the rules of various Tabletop Role-Playing Games, such as Dungeons & Dragons. Just reading the rules, since I have no one to play with (although hopefully that will change soon). For me, there’s something therapeutic about seeing a world broken down into simple rules and concepts. Yes, I know I’m a nerd. A while back during a moment of procrastination, I was browsing the Character Class section of a game called Dungeon World, when a particular line in the ‘Paladin’ class section caught my attention:
Yours is the gift of righteousness and virtue. Of justice. Vision, too. A purity of intent that your companions do not have.
The concept of the ‘Paladin’ in popular culture, of course, has deep Catholic roots. The original Paladins were the 12 Peers of Charlemagne, the defenders of Christendom in the legends of Medieval France. The quintessential knights in shining armor, the current perception of them in novels and video games stem largely from the portrayal of the Twelve Peers in Poul Anderson’s novel, ‘Three Hearts, Three Lions’. Vision. Intent. Duty. A romanticized concept, perhaps, but it speaks to the equating of holiness with purpose and virtue. Of knowing what you’re supposed to do.
But then we are confronted with the words of Jesus on the Cross: Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Powerful words, for me. In my Faith journey, I have always strived to understand what I believed in. Sometimes, that made it easy for my fellow Catholics to dismiss me. Garrett is a ‘head person’. He knows all the unnecessary things. All that’s important is that I know that I am loved by God.
How many times have I seen fellow brothers and sisters in Christ glory in their own ignorance, under the pretense of maintaining a ‘childlike’ faith? How many times have I seen ignorance close people off, seek to find other friends, other ‘Catholic friends’ like them, where there is no need to be challenged, where one’s faith becomes close-minded and judgmental? As if I could say I loved my Friend without bothering to get to know him!
So when the next line was “So guide these fools, paladin. Take up your holy cause and bring salvation to the wastrel world.” Maybe you’d understand why part of me was filled with feelings of self-righteousness. It didn’t help that many members of my community at that time were seeking some more solid intellectual formation, and I was feeling a little stretched being the main source of knowledge. I was able to see how my gifts could help bring others to Christ. And no matter what anyone said, I knew that I loved and was loved by Jesus. Yes, I wasn’t like the rest. I had a purpose, and I knew what I had to do. Ignorance was something to be detested and abhorred. No one would ever say that I ‘knew not’!
No one but Our Lord.
Yes, these words are meant for me too. God may have given me a measure of the gift of knowledge, and maybe even a measure of wisdom, manifesting in the ability to empathize and shepherd others. But no matter how sure, how convicted I am, I will never be 100% sure that I’m in the right. I’ll never be able to say with absolute certainty that I’m on the right track, or that what I do is pleasing to God. I can be self-righteous and egotistic, looking down on and being dismissive of others. Sometimes, fear drives my actions, and I do things that hurt myself and others.
That’s when Jesus turns to God and my behalf and says “Forgive him, for he knows not what he does.”
So I continue to try living up to the ideals of my Faith. Continue trying to be a Level 1 Paladin of Jesus. Guiding people where I can, offering compassion and a listening ear where I am able. Doing my best. Asking Him to shepherd me too, even as he calls me to be a shepherd to others. And when I inevitably fail, maybe to intellectual pride or some other human vice, humbly ask again for forgiveness, because in the end, I know not what I do.
© 2018 Christ Centered Conversations/Garrett Christopher Ng