THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for December 13th, 2013
Memorial of St. Lucy
Liturgical texts here
SOMETIMES I find the comments beneath a news story as interesting as the story itself—they are a bit like a barometer indicating the advance of the Great Storm in our times (though weeding through the foul language, vile responses, and incivility is exhausting).
I was reading the comments on a recent headline story in which Pope Francis was named “Man of the Year” by TIME magazine. One person posted how the Catholic Church is the most villainous and corrupt institution on the planet. Hm. Sounds like someone has been reading Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens—two militant atheists who, through wit and charm, smoke and mirrors, have made a tremendous impact on the youth in our times by their often groundless attacks on the Church using “logic” and “reason.”
Jesus said “a tree is known by its fruit.” Matt 12:33 He puts it another way in today’s Gospel after the critics of his day accused him of being a drunkard and glutton.
…wisdom is vindicated by her works.
There is likewise a certain intellectual blindness in our day that is one of the most telling “signs of the times,” what Benedict XVI called an “eclipse of reason.” On the Eve You see, there is a difference between an apple tree that has a branch with bad fruit, and an apple tree that produces nothing but bad fruit. The former indicates a sick branch; the latter, a sick tree. Some of the Catholic Church’s most vociferous critics have failed to distinguish the two apart, hastily laying the axe to the root.
I shared with readers a while back how several teammates and I were sexually abused by our high school football trainer. It’s never dawned on me to conclude that every football program in the country is therefore “villainous and corrupt to the core.” That would be slanderous and intellectually dishonest. Likewise, the fact that the Catholic Church has seen the sad and repulsive phenomenon of sexual perversion in the priesthood, or the abuse of money by a bishop here, or the failed protection of children from predators there… does not make the entire Church nefarious. If so, then—as we read stories of pedophile police, judges, senators, scientists, teachers, and Wall Street brokers—there is no business, organization, or institution in the world, or members thereof, that are not “corrupt to the core.” Including Dawkin’s field of evolutionary biology.
The truth is, the Church is and will be vindicated by her works. To walk through the countryside of Europe or travel through the Slavic lands is to see clearly how the Church transformed nations, not only through architecture and magnificent churches, but more importantly, by the establishment of schools, orphanages, and charities. To study the constitutions, history, and freedoms prevalent in Western countries inevitably leads one to the founding fathers and their belief in, and application of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that in turn pacified their nations.
But we must also be careful not to paint the Church in rosy colors, despite the ongoing lies about Galileo, the Inquisition, the Church’s “wealth”, etc. The Holy Father’s recent Apostolic Exhortation is a powerful exposure of the sickness that exists in many of the Vine’s branches. It is a call to repentance first and foremost of the Church, because some of the criticism of her members is valid. Moreover, the recent scandals of the past 50 years have eroded the credibility of every Catholic to a large degree.
So what should be our personal response to this? The answer is very simple: become a branch that bears good fruit. The first reading says,
If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river, and your vindication like the waves of the sea.
You and I, the Church, and more importantly, Jesus, will be vindicated to the degree that we let go of this world and embrace the next. We do this by making radical choices to put the Kingdom of God first in everything we do. And that means trusting in God’s love despite your sinfulness, falling in love with Jesus, and then showing His face to those around you. The Church will never be believed unless we go into the streets and love the poor, both those spiritually and physically poor; unless we love our enemies and forgive those who have hurt us; unless we share our belongings and use our wealth for the good of others; unless we cease being ashamed of Jesus and begin to share the Good News of His love and mercy to those around us—in our families, parish communities, and places of work and school.
Those wounded by historical divisions find it difficult to accept our invitation to forgiveness and reconciliation, since they think that we are ignoring their pain or are asking them to give up their memory and ideals. But if they see the witness of authentically fraternal and reconciled communities, they will find that witness luminous and attractive. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 100
As for those who unfairly disparage the Church, they have often been wounded by her members, having at one point or another tasted “bad fruit.”
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. (Matt 5:44-45)
Perhaps they will find healing and reconcile with Christ and His Church. For our part, we will love… and let Christ be our judge.
For the Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes. (Psalm 1)
Oh! when in every city and village the law of the Lord is faithfully observed, when respect is shown for sacred things, when the Sacraments are frequented, and the ordinances of Christian life fulfilled, there will certainly be no more need for us to labor further to see all things restored in Christ… And then? Then, at last, it will be clear to all that the Church, such as it was instituted by Christ, must enjoy full and entire liberty and independence from all foreign dominion… “He shall break the heads of his enemies,” that all may know “that God is the king of all the earth,” “that the Gentiles may know themselves to be men.” All this, Venerable Brethren, We believe and expect with unshakable faith. —POPE PIUS X, E Supremi, Encyclical “On the Restoration of All Things”, n.14, 6-7
- No evidence for God? Read: In All of Creation
- Finding evidence of God: Measuring God
- Can there be a “good” atheist? Read The Good Atheist
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