Friday, August 03, 2007

Today's Gospel

Matthew 13: 54-58

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.” And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.
Matthew 13: 54-58

One of the most unfulfilling tasks for anyone is to try to counsel the members of one’s family. There is too much history to deal with, and it causes resentment. Jesus understood this, and showed by his famous statement that he was not immune to being rejected by those who knew him fairly intimately. Leaving aside the question of who Jesus’ brothers and sisters were, we are left with the astonishment that the people of his home town exhibited at this local boy being such a wise and powerful prophet. How often do we encounter someone whom we know, who speaks in witness to something of God for us? It may not be often, but how often are we too quick to shut out their voice since we are astonished that they would know anything more than we do?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Gospel for 31 July, St. Ignatius Loyola, SJ, priest, religious founder.

Matthew 13: 36-43
Jesus dismissed the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the Kingdom. The weeds are the children of the Evil One, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels,and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

Scholars would say that today’s gospel is probably not an example of the ipsissima verba, i.e., the very words of Jesus, but rather a reflection on the part of the evangelist about the parable of the weeds and the wheat. The explanation of the parable reminds us that there was still the expectation that Jesus would return soon, but that it was giving way to an understanding that the return of Christ was going to take a little longer than originally expected. We also see that the Church has become the place where the Kingdom of God that Jesus preached is located. The original parable showed that good and evil coexist in the world. That coexistence will continue until God decides that time is up. It is more important for us to bear fruit of holiness than to uproot evil in everyone, everywhere.

Today is the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. Ignatius was a soldier who got religion when he was recuperating from battle wounds. He gathered followers into his order, and placed them at the service of the Church. They became the shock-troops of the Counter-Reformation, and probably did a lot of uprooting evil in everyone and everywhere. The collect for the day:

Father, you gave St. Ignatius of Loyola to your Church to bring greater glory to your name. May we follow his example on earth and share the crown of life in heaven. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Big Flap

I am quoting this recent document in its entirety from the Vatican web site. It's so funny to hear people going off about this without having read it. Also, I wonder what the response would be if you querried one of your local main line Protestant ministers about why he and his church doesn't share communion with, let's say, the Mormons, or the Jehovah's (nit-)Witnesses? He or she would be forced to say that it wouldn't happen because there are "defects" (something lacking) in those religious bodies. Get the picture here?



The Second Vatican Council, with its Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, and its Decrees on Ecumenism (Unitatis redintegratio) and the Oriental Churches (Orientalium Ecclesiarum), has contributed in a decisive way to the renewal of Catholic ecclesiology. The Supreme Pontiffs have also contributed to this renewal by offering their own insights and orientations for praxis: Paul VI in his Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam suam (1964) and John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint (1995).
The consequent duty of theologians to expound with greater clarity the diverse aspects of ecclesiology has resulted in a flowering of writing in this field. In fact it has become evident that this theme is a most fruitful one which, however, has also at times required clarification by way of precise definition and correction, for instance in the declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae (1973), the Letter addressed to the Bishops of the Catholic Church
Communionis notio (1992), and the declaration Dominus Iesus (2000), all published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The vastness of the subject matter and the novelty of many of the themes involved continue to provoke theological reflection. Among the many new contributions to the field, some are not immune from erroneous interpretation which in turn give rise to confusion and doubt. A number of these interpretations have been referred to the attention of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Given the universality of Catholic doctrine on the Church, the Congregation wishes to respond to these questions by clarifying the authentic meaning of some ecclesiological expressions used by the magisterium which are open to misunderstanding in the theological debate.



Did the Second Vatican Council change the Catholic doctrine on the Church?


The Second Vatican Council neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine, rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained it.
This was exactly what John XXIII said at the beginning of the Council.
[1] Paul VI affirmed it[2] and commented in the act of promulgating the Constitution Lumen gentium: “There is no better comment to make than to say that this promulgation really changes nothing of the traditional doctrine. What Christ willed, we also will. What was, still is. What the Church has taught down through the centuries, we also teach. In simple terms that which was assumed, is now explicit; that which was uncertain, is now clarified; that which was meditated upon, discussed and sometimes argued over, is now put together in one clear formulation”.[3] The Bishops repeatedly expressed and fulfilled this intention.[4]


What is the meaning of the affirmation that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church?


Christ “established here on earth” only one Church and instituted it as a “visible and spiritual community”
[5], that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted.[6] “This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic […]. This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him”.[7]
In number 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium ‘subsistence’ means this perduring, historical continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church[8], in which the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth.
It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them.
[9] Nevertheless, the word “subsists” can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe... in the “one” Church); and this “one” Church subsists in the Catholic Church.[10]


Why was the expression “subsists in” adopted instead of the simple word “is”?
The use of this expression, which indicates the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church, does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are “numerous elements of sanctification and of truth” which are found outside her structure, but which “as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity”.
“It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church”[12].


Why does the Second Vatican Council use the term “Church” in reference to the oriental Churches separated from full communion with the Catholic Church?


The Council wanted to adopt the traditional use of the term. “Because these Churches, although separated, have true sacraments and above all – because of the apostolic succession – the priesthood and the Eucharist, by means of which they remain linked to us by very close bonds”
[13], they merit the title of “particular or local Churches”[14], and are called sister Churches of the particular Catholic Churches.[15]
“It is through the celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord in each of these Churches that the Church of God is built up and grows in stature”.
[16] However, since communion with the Catholic Church, the visible head of which is the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter, is not some external complement to a particular Church but rather one of its internal constitutive principles, these venerable Christian communities lack something in their condition as particular churches.[17]
On the other hand, because of the division between Christians, the fullness of universality, which is proper to the Church governed by the Successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him, is not fully realised in history.[18]


Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of “Church” with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?


According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery
[19] cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called “Churches” in the proper sense[20].
The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ratified and confirmed these Responses, adopted in the Plenary Session of the Congregation, and ordered their publication.
Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 29, 2007, the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

William Cardinal Levada, Prefect
Angelo Amato, S.D.B.Titular Archbishop of Sila, Secretary


[1] John XXIII, Address of 11 October 1962: “…The Council…wishes to transmit Catholic doctrine, whole and entire, without alteration or deviation…But in the circumstances of our times it is necessary that Christian doctrine in its entirety, and with nothing taken away from it, is accepted with renewed enthusiasm, and serene and tranquil adherence… it is necessary that the very same doctrine be understood more widely and more profoundly as all those who sincerely adhere to the Christian, Catholic and Apostolic faith strongly desire …it is necessary that this certain and immutable doctrine, to which is owed the obedience of faith, be explored and expounded in the manner required by our times. The deposit of faith itself and the truths contained in our venerable doctrine are one thing, but the manner in which they are annunciated is another, provided that the same fundamental sense and meaning is maintained” : AAS 54 [1962] 791-792.
[2] Cf. Paul VI, Address of 29 September 1963: AAS 55 [1963] 847-852.
[3] Paul VI, Address of 21 November 1964: AAS 56 [1964] 1009-1010.
[4] The Council wished to express the identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church. This is clear from the discussions on the decree Unitatis redintegratio. The Schema of the Decree was proposed on the floor of the Council on 23.9.1964 with a Relatio (Act Syn III/II 296-344). The Secretariat for the Unity of Christians responded on 10.11.1964 to the suggestions sent by Bishops in the months that followed (Act Syn III/VII 11-49). Herewith are quoted four texts from this Expensio modorum concerning this first response.
A) [In Nr. 1 (Prooemium) Schema Decreti: Act Syn III/II 296, 3-6]
“Pag. 5, lin. 3-6: Videtur etiam Ecclesiam catholicam inter illas Communiones comprehendi, quod falsum esset.R(espondetur): Hic tantum factum, prout ab omnibus conspicitur, describendum est. Postea clare affirmatur solam Ecclesiam catholicam esse veram Ecclesiam Christi” (Act Syn III/VII 12).
B) [In Caput I in genere: Act Syn III/II 297-301]
“4 - Expressius dicatur unam solam esse veram Ecclesiam Christi; hanc esse Catholicam Apostolicam Romanam; omnes debere inquirere, ut eam cognoscant et ingrediantur ad salutem obtinendam...R(espondetur): In toto textu sufficienter effertur, quod postulatur. Ex altera parte non est tacendum etiam in aliis communitatibus christianis inveniri veritates revelatas et elementa ecclesialia”(Act Syn III/VII 15). Cf. also ibid pt. 5.
C) [In Caput I in genere: Act Syn III/II 296s]
“5 - Clarius dicendum esset veram Ecclesiam esse solam Ecclesiam catholicam romanam...R(espondetur): Textus supponit doctrinam in constitutione ‘De Ecclesia’ expositam, ut pag. 5, lin. 24-25 affirmatur” (Act Syn III/VII 15). Thus the commission whose task it was to evaluate the responses to the Decree
Unitatis redintegratio clearly expressed the identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church and its unicity, and understood this doctrine to be founded in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium.
D) [In Nr. 2 Schema Decreti: Act Syn III/II 297s]
“Pag. 6, lin. 1- 24: Clarius exprimatur unicitas Ecclesiae. Non sufficit inculcare, ut in textu fit, unitatem Ecclesiae.R(espondetur): a) Ex toto textu clare apparet identificatio Ecclesiae Christi cum Ecclesia catholica, quamvis, ut oportet, efferantur elementa ecclesialia aliarum communitatum”.“Pag. 7, lin. 5: Ecclesia a successoribus Apostolorum cum Petri successore capite gubernata (cf. novum textum ad pag. 6, lin.33-34) explicite dicitur ‘unicus Dei grex’ et lin. 13 ‘una et unica Dei Ecclesia’ ” (Act Syn III/VII).The two expressions quoted are those of
Unitatis redintegratio 2.5 e 3.1.
[5] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.1.
[6] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.2; 3.4; 3.5; 4.6.
[7] Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen gentium, 8.2.
[8] Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae, 1.1: AAS 65 [1973] 397; Declaration Dominus Iesus, 16.3: AAS 92 [2000-II] 757-758; Notification on the Book of Leonardo Boff, OFM, “Church: Charism and Power”: AAS 77 [1985] 758-759.
[9] Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 11.3: AAS 87 [1995-II] 928.
[10] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.2.
[11] Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.2.
[12] Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.4.
[13] Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 15.3; cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Communionis notio, 17.2: AAS, 85 [1993-II] 848.
[14] Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 14.1.
[15] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 14.1; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 56 f: AAS 87 [1995-II] 954 ff.
[16] Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 15.1.
[17] Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Communionis notio, 17.3: AAS 85 [1993-II] 849.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 22.3.
[20] Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus
, 17.2: AAS 92 [2000-II] 758.

Today's Gospel

Matthew 13: 31-35
Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds. “The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds,yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush,and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.” He spoke to them another parable. “The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.
Watching bread rise is more exciting than watching paint dry, but still not as exciting as just about anything else, yet for the baker it is a time of anxiety---will the yeast work---will the loaf rise? Anyone who has planted a seed in the garden knows that waiting for the first blade to rise, much less the first fruit to appear, is a time of anxiety---will the seed sprout---will it bare fruit?
As a teacher, Jesus didn’t just tell his students the answers. He taught in parables so that those who thirsted to know might ponder the message that was contained within them. Parables, like other forms of human utterance, need to be situated in a context that is graspable by the hearers, so Jesus spoke to the people with allusions that came from their own experiences. If we do not study Jesus’ parables, then the truths that have been hidden “since the foundation of the world” will remain hidden to us, and the harvest will be anxiety.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Today's Epistle

Brothers and sisters: You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God,who raised him from the dead. And even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross.

So ends the reading of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians for this Sunday. I decided awhile back that for this 3-year cycle of the readings I would concentrate on the non-gospel NT readings. The late Aidan Kavanaugh, OSB, in his writings said that the homily is ALWAYS on the gospel. And generally I'd agree with him, but NEVER to preach on the epistles makes them irrelevant, and if we're going to take Aidan's approach, then there is no point in reading them at all. Why present readings, often obscure to the thought of contemporary Catholics, and then never unpack them for the people's understanding?

Therefore, pace Fr. Aidan, I've started this cycle of preachings on the epistles. The lectionary leaves out several verses preceding where the Apostle warns the Colossians to avoid "philosophy" and "traditions" because they will ensnare them. This is the only time in the NT where the word "philosophy" appears. Paul is not talking about Plato and Aristotle here. Rather this is reasoning "according to the flesh," i.e., outside of the salvific grace of Christ, and therefore in opposition to him. There is a "right mind" that people need to have if they are going to be with Christ. Human reason is a gift from God. It is not to be denigrated, but rejoiced in. Without it we would never be able to experience the truth about anything, whether of this world or of the next. At the same time, human reason is infallible only when it is right. When it's wrong, its conclusions can lead to disaster.

By baptism into Christ, we have the possibility to tap into the "mind of Christ." Therefore, if we are always guided by the mind of Christ, we will then have that right mind that is so necessary for the Catholic life. All of this is a gift, however, and we cannot achieve this state through human reason unassisted by grace. This gift to us is the result of the death of Christ on the holy rood.

As the Apostle says, all of this has been done for us while we were sinners. It is not a reward for our being good, or doing something nice. Grace is God's holy gift and totally beyond human power to gain. Christ nailed our sins to the cross, as it were to say that the indictment against us has been wiped away. The lectionary reading, for some unknown reason, leaves off a sentence that describes this as Christ's capturing all the evil powers of the universe and making them part of his triumphal procession, with them in tow as his prisoners. What a tremendous statement about the power of Christ that is available by the rood and resurrection to folks!