Summary: As the Synod Fathers gather to begin the year of faith, we consider the role of the Church as she takes up the mission of Christ to bring together all the people of the world in praise and obedience.
October 8, 2012
Monday of 27th Week in Course
As we begin the year of faith this week, I feel called to begin a new sermon series, setting for my theme the Holy Father’s admonition to return to the Documents of Vatican Council II. The Fathers of the Church were particularly devoted to the story we proclaim in today’s Gospel. The Jewish traveler was probably a little slow. Either he fell out of the caravan or he just didn’t understand that the Jerusalem to Jericho road, often called the valley of the shadow of death, was no place to travel alone. So he “fell among thieves” who mugged him and stole everything. The Jewish priest and the Temple cantor passed him by, probably because to touch blood was to incur ritual impurity. The one who tended him was an outcast from society–a Samaritan who not only helped the man, but who wrote a blank check to the innkeeper for his healing.
The Church sees herself as the good Samaritan, following the lead of Jesus, the Light of the World. Chapter 1 of the Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, concludes: “Just as Christ carried out the work of redemption in poverty and persecution, so the Church is called to follow the same route that it might communicate the fruits of salvation to men. Christ Jesus, ‘though He was by nature God . . . emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave’,(77) and ‘being rich, became poor’(78) for our sakes. Thus, the Church, although it needs human resources to carry out its mission, is not set up to seek earthly glory, but to proclaim, even by its own example, humility and self-sacrifice. Christ was sent by the Father ‘to bring good news to the poor, to heal the contrite of heart’,(79) ‘to seek and to save what was lost’.(80) Similarly, the Church encompasses with love all who are afflicted with human suffering and in the poor and afflicted sees the image of its poor and suffering Founder. It does all it can to relieve their need and in them it strives to serve Christ. While Christ, holy, innocent and undefiled(81) knew nothing of sin,(82) but came to expiate only the sins of the people,(83) the Church, embracing in its bosom sinners, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal. The Church, ‘like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God(14), announcing the cross and death of the Lord until He comes.’(84) By the power of the risen Lord it is given strength that it might, in patience and in love, overcome its sorrows and its challenges, both within itself and from without, and that it might reveal to the world, faithfully though darkly, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it will be manifested in full light.”
We continually need to remind ourselves that the Church has this calling, and it is the same as the mission of Jesus Christ. The story of the Tower of Babel is a kind of parable of what happened, and continues to happen in a world that rejects God. People don’t listen to each other, or hear what they want to hear, and they scatter and war against each other. The serpent is always tempting us to break apart, because out of jealousy he wants us to fail to be in union with the Father and with each other.
Jesus came to bring us to the Father, and to reunite us with one another. He is the Word of the Father, the Word that all of us can hear rightly because we share the one Spirit.
“The eternal Father, by a free and hidden plan of His own wisdom and goodness, created the whole world. His plan was to raise men to a participation of the divine life. Fallen in Adam, God the Father did not leave men to themselves, but ceaselessly offered helps to salvation, in view of Christ, the Redeemer "who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature".(2) All the elect, before time began, the Father "foreknew and pre- destined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that he should be the firstborn among many brethren".(3) He planned to assemble in the holy Church all those who would believe in Christ.”
As we begin this year of faith, as we enter the Porta Fidei, the gate of faith, our bishops are in synod in Rome, discussing and praying about the new evangelization. The world is dying on the side of the road. Only in the Church Jesus established is there the fullness of truth, goodness and beauty. Only in the Church is there the oil of healing, the bread and wine that is communion in the body and blood of Christ. Each of us has a part. Pray, give and join in this effort. And walk with me as we, over the next year, read and study the documents of the Council.