14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

   

     Living 2,000 years after Jesus, knowing the whole story about His passion, death, and resurrection, it can be easy for us to wonder how so many people rejected Jesus. While all of us would like to think that if we were in their shoes we would follow Christ, I can’t help but wonder if Jesus walked among us today would we have the faith to allow Him to teach us or would we be like His neighbors who scoffed at His teachings? Well, Jesus still does walk among us and He continues to teach us. Yes, He teaches us through the Sacred Scriptures, but ultimately He teaches us through the Catholic Church which He left us founded on the Rock of St. Peter[1] under the protection of the Holy Spirit[2] to guide us through this life towards eternal life.

     I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful that Jesus is still among us in the presence of His Church to teach us and show us the way. Look, let’s just be honest, life today is complex, and we are certainly no better than St. Paul who tells us about his own weakness in today’s 2nd reading. All of us are prone to mistakes and without the guidance of the Church, we would be lost on our journey with Christ. I saw this firsthand about a month ago when my previous pastor called me one morning because a fundamentalist had found his way to the front door of our rectory with “questions” about the Catholic faith. When you’re the associate pastor you find yourself with all the work, the pastor doesn’t want, and so I soon found myself sitting in my office with this young man and it quickly became clear that he was more interested in trying to convert me to his religion than actually having any questions about the Catholic Church. In an attempt to prove that I was wasting my life as a Catholic priest he wanted to simply quote scripture passages at me, but I’ve played this game too many times and was not willing to let him go down that path. You see when we start to play the game of quoting different bible passages out of context with each other we get absolutely nowhere because there is no authority to make sure that we are interpreting the passages correctly.

     I agreed with him that as followers of Christ, we Catholics certainly profess that the Bible is the inspired word of God, but history is clear “there is no such thing as God’s word floating around outside the Church – rather it is always transmitted in the Church and through her.”[3]  Did you know that the bible we have today was not compiled until the year 382? For nearly 350 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, many different texts were floating around claiming to be the divinely inspired word of God. So, in 382 Pope Damasus, I called the bishops of the world to Rome to discern what books should be included in the bible and they gave us the version of the bible that we have today. In other words “the primary setting for scriptural interpretation is the life of the Church.”[4] For you see, the second you remove the authority of the Catholic Church from the interpretation of the scriptures, we cease to have the confidence that what we are hearing is truly the teaching of Christ. After all, we can only have confidence that the scriptures are truly the word of God because the Catholic Church discerned this in 382 at the council of Rome.

     When we read the scriptures we see that Jesus ordered His disciples to teach all nations so that each and every person might follow the will of God as preached by Him.[5] Jesus told his disciples “as the Father has sent me, so I send you.”[6] He told them “whoever listens to you, listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”[7] Just as the Father gave authority to Christ,[8] Christ passed it on to his apostles[9] and they passed it on to the successors they appointed as bishops[10] and so even down until today Jesus is teaching us through the teachings of the Catholic Church. But are we listening?

     Friends, fortunately for us Jesus is still speaking, but are we listening? Jesus is still teaching, but are we still following? Look, I get it, some of the teachings of the Catholic faith are hard to live out and it may seem easier to just ignore them, but when we do that we ignore Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life,[11] the one who came to save us, the one who comes to show us the way back to the Father.

     If we find ourselves disagreeing with the teachings of the Church I think we need to step back and ask ourselves a couple of questions. 1. What does the Church actually teach? 2. Why does the Church teach what She does? 3. What do I really believe? 4. Why do I really believe what I believe? 5. In all humility is my reasoning really better than that of the Church’s? Often when we go through those questions we come to discover our own errors, but at the end of the day, the ultimate question is simple. Who are we in today’s Gospel? Are we truly followers of Christ or are in the camp of those who rejected Jesus? And to answer that question all we need to do is ask ourselves if we follow the teachings of the Church or make excuses not to follow them.

[1] Mathew 16:18

[2] John 14:6

[3] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. Pg 23

[4] Pope Benedict XVI. Post Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini. Boston: Pauline Books (2010) Paragraph 29.

[5] Mathew 28:16

[6] John 20:21

[7] Luke 10:16

[8] John 5:22

[9] Luke 10:16

[10] 1 Timothy 4:14

[11] John 14:6

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