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  • Father David M. Knight

Father David's Reflection for Thursday of Week Eleven (Ordinary Time)

The Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 111) gives us a guide for discerning true ministry from false: “Your works, O

Lord, are justice and truth.”

In 2Corinthians 11: 1-11 Paul denounces people who were proclaiming a distorted version of Christianity. They may even have based their claims on an “appeal to the authority of church leaders in Jerusalem” and carried “letters of recommendation from them.” But since “their preaching is marked at least by a different emphasis and style,” Paul sees them as seducing people away from Christ as the devil seduced Eve.[1]

Not all ministers, even accredited ministers, are trustworthy. There always have been and always will be distorted teachings in the Church. The history of Christian spirituality is full of examples, some championed by bishops: Pelagianism, Quietism, Neo-Manichaeism, Jansenism, negativity toward the body, toward women, and the three underlying distortions in the agenda that the Roman Curia itself proposed at the beginning of Vatican Council II, which the bishops, when assembled, identified and rejected: legalism, clericalism and triumphalism.

Sometimes the distortion reveals itself just in “a different emphasis and style.” In our day we see it most often in those whose emphasis is on law-observance, and whose style is condemnatory. These are the self-appointed watchdogs of the Church who are most likely to make an “appeal to the authority of church leaders” — those in Rome now, rather than Jerusalem — bypassing even the authority of the local bishop.

Authentic ministry must embody that “communion in the Holy Spirit” that reflects both respect for Church authority and responsiveness to the Holy Spirit. Its tone must be love, and its guiding concern Christ’s command to Peter: “If you love me, feed my sheep.” This is authentic ministry: “Your works, O Lord, are justice and truth.”

Matthew 6: 7-15 is the rejection of legalism in prayer. The Our Father is not a formula of words to memorize (the words differ in Matthew and Luke) but a list of priorities to embrace, The point is not what words one says, how many we say or how often we say them (think of our compulsion to “get in” our prayers, our rosaries, our novenas). Prayer is not words but surrender of the heart to God.

When the disciples asked, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1-4), Jesus responded by teaching the priorities of his own heart. If we make them our own we will be able to pray. If we don’t, we will just be “babbling on like the pagans.” Jesus says, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” He does, but too often we don’t. The Our Father teaches us what we truly need and what we should ask for. It is the outline of a way of life. “Your works, O Lord,” are not in words alone, but in “justice and truth.”

Initiative: Be a priest. Unite your heart to Christ’s and act out of that.

[1] See the New American Bible Catholic Study Bible, note to verse 11:5.

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