Immersed in Christ: August 19, 2020
WEDNESDAY of the TWENTIETH WEEK in Ordinary Time
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
(Responsorial: Psalm 23)
Ezekiel 34:1-11: It does not shock us that God inspires a prophet to condemn the “shepherds of Israel.” Or that the Gospel writers lay chief blame for the murder of Jesus on the “chief priests, elders, scribes and Pharisees,” who were the authorities, official and unofficial, in Judaism. We admire Pope John Paul II for admitting to “a clear sense of my own human frailty” and inviting all Christians to pray for his own, personal conversion, which he called “indispensable for ‘Peter’ to be able to serve his brethren.” He declares himself convinced that I have a particular responsibility... in heeding the request made of me to find a way of exercising the primacy which... is open to a new situation.... I insistently pray the Holy Spirit to shine his light upon us, enlightening all the Pastors and theologians of our Churches, that we may seek—together, of course—the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned. This is an immense task, which we cannot refuse and which I cannot carry out by myself. 1
But when Archbishop John Quinn obeyed by writing his book The Reform of the Papacy, he knew Catholics would be shocked. He felt the need to explain:
Deeply embedded in the memory of the Church are the Protestant Reformers... who used the word “reform” to include rejection of the papacy...the priesthood...and other things.... Yet, paradoxically... the Magisterium of the Church has continually used the word “reform.” The Council of Trent enacted at least 96 specific directives explicitly entitled “reform”.... The first priority of Trent was Church reform.
And he quotes Vatican Council II:
Christ summons his Church to continual reformation, of which it is always in need, in so far as it is an institution of human beings on earth.2
Nevertheless, Catholics feel it is disloyal, disruptive and divisive if any author criticizes the bishops, the pope, or the current “way of exercising” authority in Church government.
But think about it: if we are one body, then the health of the whole depends on the proper functioning of each member. Bishops and priests, in particular, have a crucial role. If we do not all call them to fidelity, corruption sets in, members defect, and the whole Church sickens.
Now read Ezekiel again, asking—but with humility and love—how many of his words apply to bishops, priests, and Church ministers. We don’t reject them as “shepherds”; we just want them to do what Jesus told Peter: “Feed my sheep.” When we see them visibly united to Christ, we will say: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”
Matthew 20:1-16: Jesus rewards effort, not time—if our efforts are love.
Initiative: Be involved in the reform of the bishops, priests, laity, and yourself.
1 John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint, 1995, nos, 3, 4, 95,96.
2 Herder and Herder (Crossroad), 1999, pp. 36-37.