SO much has been said this past week on the spirit of fear that has been flooding many souls. I have been blessed that so many of you have entrusted your own vulnerability to me as you have been trying to sift through the confusion that has become a staple of the times. But to assume that what is called confusion is immediately, therefore, “from the evil one” would be incorrect. Because in the life of Jesus, we know that so often his followers, the teachers of the law, the Apostles, and even Mary were left confused as to the meaning and actions of the Lord.
And out of all of these followers, two responses stand out that are like two pillars rising on the sea of turmoil. If we begin to imitate these examples, we can affix ourselves to both of these pillars, and be drawn into the internal calm that is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
It is my prayer that your faith in Jesus will be renewed in this meditation…
THE PILLARS OF PROFESSION and PONDERING
When Jesus taught the profound truth that His Body and Blood were to be literally consumed so as to receive “eternal life”, many of His followers left Him. But St. Peter declared,
Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…
In that sea of confusion and bewilderment, of accusations and scorn sweeping through the crowds at Jesus’ words, Peter’s profession of faith rises like a pillar—a rock. Yet, Peter did not say, “I fully understand your message,” or “I fully comprehend your actions, Lord.” That which his mind could not grasp, his spirit did:
…We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God. (John 6:68-69)
In spite of all the contradictions that the mind, the flesh, and the devil presented as “reasonable” counter-arguments, Peter believed simply because Jesus was the Holy One of God. His word was the Word.
While many things Jesus taught are mysteries, that does not mean that they cannot be grasped and understood, even if not fully. When as a child, when He went missing for three days, Jesus simply explained to His mother that He must “be in my Father’s house.”
And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them… and his mother kept all these things in her heart. (Luke 2:50-51)
Here then our two examples of how to respond when we are confronted with the mysteries of Christ, which by extension, are mysteries also of the Church, since the Church is the “body of Christ.” We are to profess our faith in Jesus, and then listen carefully to His voice in the silence of our hearts so that His word will begin to grow, illuminate, strengthen, and transform us.
IN THIS PRESENT CONFUSION
There is something profound that Jesus says immediately after the throngs rejected His teaching on the Eucharist, and it speaks directly to our times. For Jesus hints at an even greater challenge coming to their faith than the Eucharist! He says:
“Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?” He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot; it was he who would betray him, one of the Twelve. (John 6:70-71)
In today’s Gospel, we see that Jesus spent “spent the night in prayer to God.” And then, “When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named apostle… [including] Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”  How could Jesus, the Son of God, after a night of prayer in communion with the Father, have chosen Judas?
I am hearing a similar question from readers. “How could Pope Francis have put Cardinal Kasper, etc. in positions of authority?” But the question shouldn’t end there. How did a saint, John Paul II, appoint bishops that have progressive and modernist leanings in the first place? To these questions and others, the answer is to pray more, and speak less. To ponder these mysteries in the heart, listening to the voice of God. And the answers, brothers and sisters, will come.
May I offer just one? Christ’s parable of the weeds among the wheat…
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from? ’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this. ’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up? ’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘ (Matt 13:27-30)
Yes, many Catholics believe in the Eucharist—but they can’t believe in a Church that has fallen bishops, imperfect priests, and compromised clerics. The faith of many has been shaken  in seeing so many Judases rise up in the Church in the past fifty years. It has produced confusion and bewilderment, accusations and scorn…
As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. (John 6:66)
The correct response, rather, is to profess one’s faith in Christ, despite, and then ponder these mysteries in the heart by listening to the voice of the Shepherd who can alone can lead us through the valley of the shadow of death.
THE SPIRIT OF TRUST
Let me conclude then with just a few Scriptures that will give us the opportunity today to both profess and ponder our faith.
Many have been pierced by the fiery arrows of the spirit of Suspicion in recent days. It is, in part, because they have not, in fact, kept the profession of their faith. By this I mean, each day at Mass, we pray the Apostle’s Creed, which includes the words: “We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” Yes, we not only believe in the Trinity, but in the Church! But I have fielded many letters that reveal a subtle creeping toward the subjectivism of Protestantism as they say, “Well… my faith is in Jesus. He is my rock, not Peter.” But you see, this is skirting around Our Lord’s own words:
You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. (Matt 16:18)
We believe in the Church, because Jesus established it. We believe in the intrinsic role of Peter, because Christ placed him there. We believe that this rock and this Church, which are one entity and cannot be separated from another, will stand, because Christ promised that it would.
Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church is, no death is there, but life eternal. —St. Ambrose of Milan (A.D. 389), Commentary on Twelve Psalms of David 40:30
And so, when you pray the Apostle’s Creed, remember that you are also saying you believe in the Church, the “apostolic” Church. But are you being assailed with doubts about this from the enemy? Then…
…hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Eph 6:16)
Do so by professing that faith… and then pondering the Word of God, such as the above, where we recognize that it is Jesus building the Church, not Peter.
Listen also to today’s first reading where Paul speaks of the Church that is…
…built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord. (Eph 2:20-21)
Rather than spending hours reading articles of how Pope Francis is supposedly going to destroy the Church, ponder what you just read: Through Jesus the whole Church is held together and grows into a temple in the Lord. You see, it’s Jesus—not the Pope—who is the final locus of unity. As St. Paul wrote elsewhere:
…in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church… (Col 1:17-18)
And this beautiful mystery of Christ’s intimacy and complete possession of the Church is explained further by St. Paul. That even though it may have its weeds and its weaknessess (even though it may endure an apostasy), we are assured that this Church, the body of Christ, will grow…
…until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. (Eph 4:13-14)
Look brothers and sisters! Despite the winds of heresy and persecution that have attempted to shipwreck the Barque of Peter over the centuries, this word of St. Paul’s is utterly true—and will continue to be true until we reach the full stature of Christ.
So, here is a simple little phrase that has been singing in my heart the past few days that can serve, perhaps, as a little shield against the spirit of Suspicion:
Listen to the Pope
Believe the Church
Trust in Jesus
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  And we hear His “word” first of all in the Sacred Scriptures, and in the quiet of our hearts through prayer. Second, Jesus speaks to us through the Church, for He said to the Twelve:
Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. (Luke 10:16)
And last, we listen to the Pope with particular attention, because it was to Peter alone that Jesus thrice commanded, “Feed my sheep,” and therefore, we know that Jesus will not feed anything to us that would destroy salvation.
Pray more, speak less… trust. While many are professing their faith today, fewer are pondering the three ways in which Jesus is speaking to us. Some refuse to listen to the Pope at all, casting every word in suspicion as they cease listening for the voice of the Good Shepherd, and instead, for the howl of the wolf. Which is unfortunate, because not only was Francis’ closing speech at the Synod a powerful affirmation of the “apostolic Church”, but his opening prayer right before the Synod instructed the faithful how to approach those two weeks.
Those who would have listened to him, would have heard the voice of Christ…
…if we truly intend to walk among contemporary challenges, the decisive condition is to maintain a fixed gaze on Jesus Christ – Lumen Gentium – to pause in contemplation and in adoration of His Face. Besides listening, we invoke an openness toward a sincere discussion, open and fraternal, which leads us to carry with pastoral responsibility the questions that this change in epoch brings. We let it flow back into our hearts, without ever losing peace, but with serene trust which in his own time the Lord will not fail to bring into unity… — POPE FRANCIS, Prayer Vigil, Vatican Radio, October 5th, 2014; fireofthylove.com
The Church must go through its own passion: weeds, weakness, and Judases alike. That is why we must begin now to walk in a spirit of trust. I’ll give a reader the last word:
I was feeling the fear and confusion myself a few weeks ago. I asked God for clarification about what is going on with the Church. The Holy Spirit simply enlightened my mind with the words “I am not letting anyone take the Church from Me.”
By believing and trusting in God, the fear and confusion just dissipated.
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- Fastening to the “two pillars”: Living the Dream?
- cf. Luke 6:12-13
- cf. “Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.” —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 675
- John 10:27