Immersed in Christ: March 28, 2020
Father David's Reflection for the Fourth Saturday of Lent
The Responsorial (Psalm 7) gives us the ruling principle of discipleship: “O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.”
The starting point of discipleship is an act of trust in God. Our security is rooted, not in acceptance by others, not in conformity to whatever group in the Church seems most solid and reliable, not even in the approval of popes and bishops, who frequently in history have turned a blind eye to abuses and “stoned the prophets” God sent to them. Our ultimate confidence is in the word of God and carefully discerned enlightenment by the Holy Spirit. To give unqualified trust to anything else, besides the reliable but rare “defined’ dogmas of the Church, is idolatry. “O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.” 1
Jeremiah 11: 18-20 tells us we don’t always know who is speaking or acting against us. “I, like a trusting lamb led to the slaughter, had not realized they were hatching plots against me.” It is not paranoia to think that it happens today. A priest “on loan” to an American diocese was denounced in a letter from the bishop’s office in his home diocese for sexual misconduct with a consenting adult. The American bishop told his Chancellor to put him on the next plane home. The Chancellor asked if he could check the story first and found proof the letter was a forgery.
Priests and others are frequently denounced to bishops for statements some hearer judged “heretical” (which today almost always means “liberal”). Most bishops simply send the letter to the accused for a response. But some prominent authors and theologians have complained that they were never allowed to confront their accusers or see the actual text of accusations made against them. This is unjust. The right to confront one’s accusers is a basic human right. 2
So what? We live with the truth that we are a sinful, saintly Church. Not to worry. Eventually, God wins. “O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.”
In John 7: 40-53 everybody is arguing about the wrong questions — except the temple guards, who when asked why they didn’t carry out orders and arrest Jesus, just said, “No man ever spoke like that before.” But others argued that he wasn’t born in the right place, or accepted by the Sanhedrin (the religious authorities) or by the Pharisees (considered the educated and “fervent”), but only by “this lot, that knows nothing about the law — and they are lost anyway.” Nicodemus pointed out it was all irrelevant. “Since when does our law condemn anyone without first knowing both the person and the facts?”
All the false arguments above are still used against controversial figures today. Authentic “disciples” seek to know Jesus (and any accused) and the facts.
Initiative: Be a disciple of Jesus. Neither accept nor reject without involving him.
1 See Matthew 5:12; 23:29-39. The worst opponents of Jesus were the established teachers of religion (the “scribes”), the approved “law and order” party (the Pharisees), and the “chief priests.” What they all had in common was power and prestige.
2 Archbishop D’Souza of India accused the Roman Curia of this in Council Speeches of Vatican II, edited by Hans Kung, Yves Congar, O,P. and Daniel O’Hanlon, S.J., Deus Books, Paulist Press, 1964, p. 129. Cf. Jefferson: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”