Immersed in Christ: May 15, 2020
Friday, Week Five of Easter
The Responsorial (Psalm 57) reminds us we pray as a community: “I will give you thanks among the peoples, O Lord.”
Acts 15: 22-31 shows us the Church’s response to the division caused by those who “without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind.” See the beginning of this chapter: “Certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’”
This raises the question of good and bad prophets. Everyone has the right — and the obligation — to speak up within the community (parish, diocese, family and friends) and to say whatever God inspires for the good of the Church:
This Synod [the Second Vatican Council] urges all concerned to work hard to prevent or correct any abuses, excesses or defects which may have crept in here or there, and to restore all things to a more ample praise of Christ and of God. 1
How do we know what is inspired by God? The ultimate answer is “by discernment of spirits”: an art, not a science, and a gift of God rather than a human talent. There are guidelines, but we can begin by distinguishing “prophets” from “Pharisees.” 2
Prophets can summon to law-observance, but typically do it with insight into the deeper, spiritual purpose of the law and into the real damage non-observance causes. Pharisees just call for literal conformity, and recognize no damage but the fact alone that the law is not being kept. Those arguing for circumcision were not seeing the deep meaning this symbol had (surpassed by Baptism). The only evil they weighed against the good of so many conversions was just the fact of non-conformity. The same spirit moves those in the Church today (jokingly referred to as the “liturgical police”) who scrutinize their pastors and report to the bishop any departure from the letter of liturgical instructions. They don’t understand that their pastors are obeying Vatican II:
Pastors of souls must realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, more is required than the mere observance of the laws governing valid and licit celebration. It is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part knowingly, actively and fruitfully. 3
The pastor who “knows his sheep” has the right and obligation to make the adjustments required to do this. Pharisees criticize, not damage; only supposed disobedience.
John 15: 12-17 Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants... but friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” Those who know the Lord interpret rules according to his mind and heart as expressed to Peter: “If you love me, feed my sheep.” Pastors sometime suffer from those who “do not care for the sheep,” but only for laws. The “good shepherd” risks this, and Jesus says there is “no greater love.” 4
Initiative: Interpret all laws according to the mind and heart of Christ.
1 Vatican II: The Church, no. 51. 2 See The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, nos. 313-336. 3 “Sacred Liturgy,” no. 11. 4 See John 10:11-15; 21:15-17.