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  • Father David M. Knight

Father David's Reflection for Vigil Mass of Saints Peter and Paul - Week Twelve (Ordinary Time)

For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us. (Responsorial: Psalm 79)

Acts 3:1-10: Everyone knows the story of a pope who said, commenting on this text amid the riches of the Vatican, “Peter can no longer say, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’” A saint replied: “No, and neither can he say, ‘Rise and walk.’”

Since the remark is attributed to various saints, it may be just legend, but it makes us think: how do money and ministry mix?

No one questions the need parishes and dioceses have to pay salaries, provide services and put up necessary buildings. The question arises when buildings, their ornamentation, or the lifestyle of priests and bishops, project an image of wealth. When does the magnificence of a church make us see it less as a place of worship and more as an art museum? Or as proof to ourselves and others, where the Church has a poor and immigrant past, as in the United States, that Catholics have “arrived”? Apart from obvious needs for funding, can a rich Church minister as well as a poor Church? Jesus apparently thought not:

Proclaim the good news.... You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag, or two tunics, or sandals.... 1

Ministry in the Church has repeatedly been renewed by “mendicant” religious orders, such as the Franciscans, Dominicans and Jesuits, who all, in their beginnings, at least, followed these instructions almost literally. And it is constantly in need of renewal.2

Most important of all is the “first law of ministry,” which Jesus gave to Peter in John 21:15-19: “If you love me, feed my sheep.” When Church officials are more intent on making rules and enforcing them than on facilitating access to Communion, something is wrong.

Galatians 1:11-20 is an essential text for reconciling the “ordinary magisterium” of the Church with prophetic witness. In the wake of the Protestant Reformation, Catholics became fixated on obedience to the pope as proof of orthodoxy. The phrase, “Roma locuta est, causa finita est” (“Rome has spoken; the discussion is over”) was interpreted in practice in a way that silenced the Spirit. It shocks us to hear Paul insist that he “did not receive from a human being” what he preached, “nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” It was only “after three years” that he “went up to Jerusalem” to compare notes with Peter. In ministry authority and charism either respect or ruin each other.

Initiative: Listen when God speaks. Discern what makes you open to his voice.

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