Immersed in Christ: May 27, 2020
Wednesday, Week Seven of Easter
Both readings express the concern Jesus and Paul have for the protection of the flock after they are gone. So today’s invitation to “Sing to God” (Responsorial, Psalm 68) focuses on God’s power to “strengthen his people.”
In Acts 20: 28-38 Paul warns the “elders” (priests) and “overseers” (bishops): “Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth.” The Vatican Council accepts this as the normal condition of the “pilgrim Church” and so “urges all concerned to remove or correct any abuses, excesses or defects which may have crept in here or there,” even in the official teaching of the “ordinary magisterium” of bishops, preachers and teachers. The Church does not claim to be perfect in any age. 1
That is why we always have need of the “prophets;” those who, like Paul, “bear witness… to the primacy of an inward communion of faith and love, the perpetually new work of the Spirit.” This, of course, must be in union with the “primacy of Peter,” which it complements: the primacy of juridical authority in the Church, given to Peter with the “keys of the kingdom.” 2
And “therein hangs the tale” of ever-recurring conflict in the Church: true prophets against false prophets, the magisterium squelching truth, teachers of error ignoring the magisterium. Jesus and Paul both predicted it would happen. How do we survive?
We survive, first of all, by absolute, unconditional, commitment to remain united to the Church that celebrates Eucharist in union with all the bishops throughout the world who trace their commission back to the Twelve. This is a non-negotiable. We may argue about all sorts of things, but we must never actually break with the bishops.
We express this in every Mass. The Liturgy of the Word may invite different interpretations, and we may disagree strongly with the homilist, but our next move is to join ourselves to the bread and wine being placed on the altar and present ourselves unconditionally to be offered with Christ in the Church. Doing this consciously and intensely in every Mass will keep us from losing the faith.
In John 17: 11-19 Jesus asks the Father, “Keep those you have given me true to your name, so they may be one like us.” He bases his prayer on the statement: “They do not belong to the world, any more than I belong to the world.” Those who have given up attachment to all the world offers — especially to riches, power and prestige — will have the least to divide them from one another. Regardless of differences of opinion on current questions of doctrine and pastoral practice, if they share with each other their prayer, their devotion and their experience of God, the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” will fill them with “the love of God” and each other, and they will find “communion in the Holy Spirit.” They will be able to lead us in proclaiming: “Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.”
Initiative: In commitment to truth, unity; in pursuit of truth, liberty; in all, charity.
1 Vatican II: The Church, no. 51. 2 See J. M. R. Tillard, O.P., The Bishop of Rome, Glazier, Inc., 1986, pages 74-117.