Immersed in Christ: August 14, 2020
FRIDAY of the NINETEENTH WEEK in Ordinary Time
You have turned from your anger to comfort me.
(Responsorial: Isaiah 12:2-6)
Catholics are not afraid to see and admit sin in the Church. Our history includes popes who were lechers and murderers, bishops who were war-lords, and generations of priests ordained just for the financial benefits. Eight percent of the original “college of bishops” sold out Jesus for money (one out of twelve). The first pope cursed and swore that he did not know him (Matthew 26:74). Current history stinks of child abuse and bishops’ failure to correct it. We “moan and groan over all the abominations that are practiced within the Church,” as everyone who is human should. But does it frighten or discourage us? No.
In Ezekiel 16:1-63, after describing Israel’s sins in images so strong the Church expurgates them from the reading, God says: “Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you... I will re-establish my covenant with you, that you may know that I am the LORD... and be covered with confusion... utterly silenced for shame when I pardon you for all you have done.”
God says our greatest punishment will be the shame we feel when he responds to our sins with such overwhelming love. If we want to revenge ourselves on others who offend us, that is the way to do it. You have turned from your anger to comfort me. Our ministry is to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” But the bottom line is to comfort as we hope to be comforted.
Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19:3-12 should not be read in separation from Matthew 19:16-30. The texts are parallel in structure: Asked a question, Jesus gives an answer that shocks his disciples, who see it as impossibly unrealistic. Jesus agrees: it can only be accepted by those empowered by God to do so. The first teaching concerns marriage, and the Church reads it as a legal obligation. The second teaching concerns the renunciation of all possessions, and the Church has no legislation about that. But however we interpret them, they are parallel teachings. If either is stronger than the other, it is the repeated insistence on giving up all our possessions as a condition for accepting the Christian (that is, “perfect”) way of life. 1
Nothing in Canon Law itself bans from Communion those in marriages not recognized by the Church (the writers say this is a “conscience matter,” not a juridical issue). But they are often banned in practice by local policy, bred from an obsolete excommunication (deleted Canon 2319), and a pastoral fear of “scandal.” However, the Church has never refused Communion to those scandalously attached to wealth.
Initiative: Condemn sin with mercy. But don’t be blindly selective.
1 See Matthew 4:18-22; 5:40-42; 6:19-21, 25-34; 8:19-20; 10:9-10; 19:27-29; Luke 3:11; 12:33; 19:8; Acts 2:45;