Summary: "we all know that few folks will change a closely-held opinion by arguing. No, let’s do it by service, by showing our faith in acts of unselfish love."
Thirtieth Sunday in Course 2017
Reformation or Revolution?
Today’s Gospel is treasured by all Christians, and, in a perfect world, would be treasured by all humans. Our Lord challenges us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We find this law, which we can consider the core teaching of both the Old and New Testament, eight times in the New–in Matthew twice, also twice in Mark, twice in the epistles of St. Paul, once in James, and once in Luke’s gospel. But Luke, as he often does, continues with a challenging parable. Jesus is asked “who is my neighbor,” and Our Lord replies that our neighbor, whom we should love as intensely as our own being, is even our enemy. That is the message of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Samaritans and Jews were unrepentant enemies.
It was God’s intention from the beginning that human beings, made in His image and likeness, would have the love and unity characteristic of the Blessed Trinity. We would all love God and love each other as God loves us. Satan, a God’s adversary and ours, tempted our first parents, and tempts us as well, with the notion that we can set our own course. Even modern society tells us we can live lives separate from true love, that we can reach fulfillment if we selfishly seize what we want and ignore the needs of others. This attitude leads us to ignore our duties to God and man, and splits up families as they succumb to materialism, individualism, perversion and greed.
But Our Lord calls us to true joy, which is achieved through self-giving in the spirit of Jesus and Mary and the saints whom we will celebrate on November 1. He calls us to build families with fathers and mothers committed to giving to each other and their children and the community, to joyfully giving of themselves without reservation. It’s the joy that Paul saw in the families he met and prayed with in Thessalonika. They were people who received the word of God in the midst of persecution by their neighbors, and who by their witness inspired the whole region of northern Greece and Macedonia.
That’s what God wants to reproduce here at St. Pius X as we strive to renew all things in Christ. When our neighbors encounter us in the town square, they should experience the same treatment we accord each other here when we worship, or get together in the family center, or work on a church project together. They should see us enthusiastically giving to the poor, advocating for those whom society marginalized, like the infants in the womb or single parents. They should see us helping those who have lost a spouse or child or parent. We should all be alert to others with needs–maybe a child who is being bullied or shunned at school. Our love of God and neighbor needs to be visible to others, so they will be attracted to Christ and His Church.
This week marks the 500th anniversary of the start of a tragedy. In 1517 Martin Luther began a movement of disunity that fractured Christendom and just about destroyed the Catholic Church in northern Europe. It has ultimately led to division after division until today there are over 30,000 different brands of Christianity. We should pray daily that the Holy Spirit move in the hearts of all Christians to see the scandal of a divided witness to Christ, and work and pray for the reunion of all who bear the baptismal seal. The secular world especially is hungry for Christ, but they cannot be effectively fed until we all share the One Body and Blood of Christ. So on what do we disagree with Protestant Christians?
Let me share just a few words about what Protestant Christians call the “three solas”: sola scriptura, sola fide, and sola gratia. “Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone.” They often add “sola Christus” and “sola Dei gloria,” but Catholics certainly agree that Jesus Christ alone is our Lord and Savior, and that we do live only for the glory of God.
Catholics teach and preach what I called on Trinity Sunday the “pesky Catholic et.” The word “et” in Latin means “and.” What I mean is that Catholics often teach the truth using the word “and.” Jesus is God and man, two natures in one divine person. God is One and Three, only one God in three distinct but united persons. Mary is virgin and mother. The Church is a holy, divine creation and one made of sinful human beings.
So the source of Christian truth is and has always been both Scripture and Tradition. That’s easily proved by two realities: before there was any New Testament, there was oral tradition from Christ and the Apostles. Some of that tradition was written down and became our New Testament. Some of it was handed down–the real meaning of tradition–in the oral and written teachings of the Church. One of those traditions was the answer to the question “what books are the inspired Scriptures?” That’s an answer only the authentic tradition of the Church could give.