Thursday, 9 February 2017

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A

Sirach 15: 15-20; 1 Corinthians 2: 6-10; Matthew 5:20-22, 27-28, 33-34, 37

Some time ago I had a lengthy conversation with a Catholic woman about the Church’s authority to teach in the name of Jesus. Her forceful response was ‘I don’t believe that!’ Of course this effectively scuttled the conversation and we moved on to other things.

I don’t believe that! How sad for a Catholic to even dare to say those words! Nevertheless, this is part of the freedom God gives every human being – to accept or to reject: He has set fire and water before you; put out your hand to whichever you prefer. Man has life and death before him; whichever a man likes better will be given him.

Fortunately no one can judge another person. We simply pray and trust that light will be given.

The world chooses very differently from the way a Christian chooses. That’s because the world has a different framework of judgment, and a different starting point. The starting point for making choices in the world is self-centred while for a Christian it is other-centred, the other being God.

The world’s choices are pragmatic, driven by money and ideology, and therefore, rather unenlightened and with a short use-by date. They depend on human intelligence and powers of reason, particular circumstances, anticipated outcomes, vested interests, external pressures, and a complex of other considerations, including what was had for breakfast that morning.

For a Catholic the starting point is the teaching of the Church as it comes to us through Scripture and Tradition. We live our lives guided by the Church because we believe she was founded by Jesus Christ. We live by her teachings, her moral precepts, her authority and her way of worshipping God. St Paul’s words to the Corinthians can be quoted here: The hidden wisdom of God which we teach in our mysteries is the wisdom that God pre-destined to be for our glory before the ages began.

The hidden wisdom of God, the keys to the kingdom of Heaven, was given by Christ to his Church. This is why a Catholic cannot turn away from the Church and claim to be still following Christ. For all the faults, the many faults, the horrible faults of her members, including the hierarchy, the Church is still the spotless bride of Christ for whom he gave his very life.

Those who have reached maturity have grasped this truth and have remained faithful; those who imagined that Jesus built his Church on the ‘goodness’ of his Apostles rather than on Peter’s ‘faith’, have discovered the weak link in their understanding and have quit the Church.

But how does an individual make a decision to entirely believe what the Church believes; how does one get to that point? The answer is one which the world cannot and never will understand - it is through the wisdom bestowed by the Holy Spirit. These are the very things that God has revealed to us through the Spirit, for the Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God.

The Holy Spirit who knows the depths of God is given to us at Baptism and Confirmation so that we ourselves might come to know the depths of God. The Holy Spirit shares with us, to the extent that we are capable, the knowledge of God.

Perhaps you were struck, as I was, by the opening sentence of the first reading from Zephaniah a couple of Sundays ago: Seek the Lord all you, the humble of the earth, who obey his commands. Somehow, seeking or knowing God always goes hand in hand with obeying his commands. If you really desire to know God you will be following his way - what Moses calls: the way I have marked out for you... .

The Holy Spirit is not given as warm fuzzy ‘I believe’ feeling. The Spirit is given also for keeping God's word. The response to the psalm today shows us what the payoff for doing this is: Happy are they who follow the law of the Lord. Jesus, too, repeatedly made this clear: Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it! (Luke 11:28)

A few challenging questions to finish with: Do you believe with all your heart that the Church speaks with God’s authority? Do you dissent from important Church teachings? Are you behaving in a way contrary to those teachings? Perhaps it’s time to make a serious and mature examination of conscience about all this?


Brendan Quinn said...

Christ himself gave the Catholic Church authority. Well said Father Speakman.

Fr John Speekman said...

Thank you, Brendan. I always think, and I'm sure people tire of hearing me say it but if the Church is wrong about one of her 'de fide' doctrines, why should she be right about any of them? If I thought she might be wrong, even on one, I would be out like a shot - in the blink of an eye.