Sunday, February 01, 2015

A teaching that is new

An old priest once said to me, "You know being a priest is great thing, it is better than being an ordinary Catholic because you don't have to listen to other peoples' boring sermons, just your own!"

The Gospel today says, "his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority."
There has always been a tendency to remove Jesus' authority, to make him just like any other boring preacher, indeed apart from things like the permanence of marriage, a great deal of what Jesus says is there in the prophets, in the Old Testament, it is not new.

What is amazing is not the message that is new but the messenger. Some people will follow Jesus' 'moral teaching' but forget who the teacher actually is.

The Church teaches, and has always taught, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, God Incarnate, the Second Person of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. This is who wee receive in Holy Communion, this is the one to who we confess our sins, and the one who absolves us,

The unclean spirit knows who he is when it says, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ He is not a Holy One but the Holy One.
The Gospels show us the disciples slowly coming to realise who Jesus is, at first he is a fascinating preacher, a worker of miracles, slowly they come to realise He is God. Peter, James and John glimpse it on the Mount of Transfiguration but for most it is something they come to only after the crucifixion and resurrection, for some only when they come to this realisation at the Ascension when they kneel or fall down before Him (even then, some hesitate).

Because it is not just we say but what we do, our kneeling during prayer, our genuflection before the Tabernacle, our bowing down during the creed at he words 'et incarnatus est' is an acknowledgement that Jesus is Our Lord and Our God.

With Jesus it is not his words so much as his actions which show he is God, and with the Church it is not so much her words but her actions which point to Him as God.

Mt 28:16-20
16 Meanwhile the eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. 17 When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. 18 Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’


Thomas said...

I agree Father that words without actions are empty, or mere notions and formulae - lip service. And this is true of prayer too. We pray with our bodies as well as our minds. I read a passage in St. Teresa of Avila where she says that she used to think when she was young that contemplation was only a spiritual activity that bypassed the the body or mental engagement with the mysteries of the Incarnation. But she grew to understand how wrong she was. We pray in and through Christ who is God made Man. Our way to union with Godhead is a human way, an incarnate way through signs and symbols, bodily actions, just as much as our faith must be put into action with practical charity too.

You mention one simple example: I wish we really did bow at the mention of the Incarnation at the Creed during Mass, like it says we should in the missal. I have never been to a parish where that actually happens! I have mentioned it gently and respectfully to some priests, but it is usually greeted with an indulgent but dismissive smile. I get the impression they are embarrassed by physical gestures of prayer now. But without these outward signs, our inner faith withers - and the young particularly see no sign that we really believe in the importance and reality of what we say.

Liam Ronan said...

Well said, Father. For my part, I suffer terribly from mental distraction during prayer. I retire so that my prayers will be somewhere without noise or other interruption, but it seems like a steady stream of worldly and other thoughts (even a word or phrase) pummel me until I finish. Then the mental distraction end. I made a general confession to a FSSP priest a year ago and explained the situation and he observed that it seemed the devil pounced on me at prayer. I have now simply entrusted my prayer life to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary and try not to fret too much when the storm hits me during prayer.

Incidentally, respect for Jesus in the Mass and reserved in the Tabernacle is show by maintaining a reverent silence in Church. Often I arrive a bit early for Mass and inevitably as the Church begins to fill the sheer amount of chatter from the congregation is neither conducive to prayer or to reverent awareness of Jesus.

Ma Tucker said...

I am uneasy when you say that Christ teaches more by His actions than His words. I think it is true that in Jesus Christ there is no separation between the two. His words are acts. He say's "Let it be", and so it is (eg healings raising the dead, ....) Since the Church is the mystical body of Our Lord Jesus Christ her doctrine and discipline and pastoral practice can never be in contradiction.

With regard to ourselves however, who often lack integrity, our words are lip service and our actions betray the words we dare not speak publicly. Also, since true actions flow from true words lived with integrity it follows if you wish to overturn those words, but are constrained in that you know you cannot change them then you are obliged to resort to reverse programming i.e. behave (or insist on/permit behaviour) that reflects the opposite. In this manner heretics hoped to undermine and did indeed make (and continue to make) great strides in ripping the Faith out of the hearts of the people like lambs to the slaughter.

Examples : Preventing kneeling at the consecration.
Refusing Communion to Catholics who kneel and/or want to receive on the tongue
Giving Our Lord over for desecration to public adulterers or proponents of child murder.
Claiming that doctrine does not change but permitting pastoral practice that implies otherwise.

Lynda said...

The priest at the Sunday Mass I attended said about three times that: (1) the possessed man had epilepsy or some other misunderstood biological illness; (2) the people there, due to ignorance as a result of their time in history and particular culture thought he had some kind of "unclean spirit"; and (3) the man [not demons who possessed him] was the only one of the people present to recognise who Our Lord was. Oh, yes, and the authority of Our Lord was comparable to the "authority" of those who had charismatic personalities, or spoke with conviction and passion, and thus people found them persuasive.

Lynda said...

Thomas, I kneel for the belief in the Incarnation (as is the holy tradition) of the Creed, no matter what Mass I'm at. Unless it's a traditional Mass, no one, not even the priest, physically bows or kneels. And Liam, at the same Mass I mentioned above, a crowd of people came into the Church shortly before the beginning of Holy Mass all talking at the tops of their voices as if at a party, and only quieted down after Mass had started. At the end of Mass, they immediately started up again, continuing for at least 10 minutes until I finished praying as best I could, and decided to leave the Church (I had hoped they would leave in a couple of minutes and there would be reverent quietness in the presence of Our Lord and Saviour).

Ronald Blake said...

The Traditional Latin Mass I attend Sunday afternoons follows on the heels of the morning Novus Ordo Mass, celebrated by the same priest. The difference in behaviors is distinct: Novus Ordo parishioners are chatty & sociable, TLM parishioners quiet & reverent.

Pelerin said...

Interesting comment from Ronald Blake. I tend to agree with him although today I found an exception to this. I attended a Novus Ordo Mass in a large packed church - there were even chairs put out in the sanctuary - and was actually surprised and pleased at the absolute silence for the period before Mass started. Not one word was heard.

The congregation was about 50/50 White/African descent and you could have heard the proverbial pin drop before Mass started.

We did not have a procession - far too many present for safety I think - but we did have candles.

So NO parishioners CAN be 'quiet and reverent'.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Pelerin: You were lucky. In our Parish we do not do feasts that fall on a Monday. So off to Worth Abbey, a good Novus Ordo, candles but only about a couple of dozen in the congregation.

Fr. Frank said...

Dear Lynda,
I am a priest in the U.S., and I offer the Holy Sacrifice as well as our Holy Mother's Sacraments and Rites in both the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms. I almost always seem to agree with your perceptions both here and on other fora we both frequent. Yet, I find myself wondering whether, if you were one of my own parishioners, you would spare any prayers for me. In all honesty, I cannot recall a single kind thing the current Vicar of Christ has ever said about priests. Neither can my brothers. But in all honesty, neither can I recall anything kind you have ever said about priests, either. Lack of charity and mercy from the faithful is far more devastating to us than lack of charity from the pope.

Fr. Frank said...

I confess -- I've only been home for an hour from my last meeting, but I'm on my third glass of port. I want to vent a bit. I learned last week that I have tumors in my left lung and right adrenal gland. In addition, I got a call today from a heart surgeon I'd never heard of telling me my radiolologist, pulmonologist, and endocrinologist had consulted with him today, and I should be at his office tomorrow morning at 10, because they were agreed that my lab results indicated serious heart disease. I should be prepared to go straightaway to hospital. I didn't even know I HAD an endocrinologist! I am 57 years old, and pastor 2 parishes with a total of about 2300 families. There is no curate. (There are only 4 curates in the entire diocese.) I currently have 3 dead, and 5 baptisms scheduled for Sunday. Lynda -- I beg you, use your beautiful passion for the Bride of Christ, and intercede for priests! And for me, a poor sinner.

Jeremiah Methuselah said...

@Father Frank

Reverend Father,

You are courageous to tell us about your very serious medical problems and it is kind of you to take us into your confidence. You honour us by sharing your situation, it’s so hard to suffer in silence and solitude and it makes things much harder.

I can say nothing about the spiritual side of things, I’m not one of those who advises priests : ) but maybe I can offer a reflection or two about the “physical” side of things ?

Cancer, is a word many hate to pronounce,which is not rational. It is very very hard to beat and will take many of us out of this Vale of Tears. My own experience not myself) is that the correct state of mind is paramount. Our Dear Lord promised us he would not push us too far and we can all comfort ourselves with that guarantee. I honestly know it works. And pain can be controlled in different ways, it’s important.

OTOH, don’t let the medics push you too hard, I pray the Lord God what seems now to be urgent may not be so. They are not at all infallible and, these days, you will be able to have a frank discussion with them, holding nothing back on either side.

Father Frank, I am sure all visiting this site will include you in their prayers, to ask the Lord and His Blessed Mother to sustain you in any trials which may be visited on you and to grant you the peace of mind which comes from a contented soul, completely at ease. It works, I promise you.

On the other matter “Lack of charity and mercy from the faithful is far more devastating to us than lack of charity from the pope”, well, that is absolutely right and needed to be said. Respect for priests must always be given – why ? Because the priest has consecrated hands, he holds the Lord in them. When the rules were changed and I was told that, as a server, I could now touch the sacred vessels with my hands, I was horrified and could not understand and I refused to do so (unpopular yet again). For me, a bad error had been made.

When speaking to a priest, he must always be addressed as such. I knew at once something was up, years and years ago,when a priest introduced himself to me as “Jonny”. I did not know what to say or do Many more examples like that.

Similarly, it is not only bad manners to talk inside the church or chapel building, but also to talk loudly when only just outside, it disturbs those still making their Thanksgiving inside. Why must we make so much noise ? Impatient ? Inquisitive ? The inside of a church is the Holy of Holies, not only when the Blessed Sacrament is reserved.

Fr. Frank said...

Dear Jeremiah,

God bless and keep you! I agree with everything you say. Everything. And I for one share your confusion about the changes. Many priests do. Dear Pope Benedict did say, after all, what was holy in the past is still holy now.

Chloe said...

Will add you to my rosary Fr Frank.

Lynda said...

Dear Fr Frank, I will pray especially for you and your intentions over the next week. It sounds as if you could do with a lot of practical and spiritual support as you labour in the vineyard. I pray for priests and bishops every day (including those that oppose the Faith), and I pray especially for the persecuted bishops and priests, and laymen. Also, about six years ago, I was asked to pray particular prayers every day, offer Masses, etc., for a named priest, as part of an apostolate that ensures that every priest is being prayed for by at least one person on a daily basis - it's under the patronage of St Joseph. Thank you for your service and sacrifice for the salvation of souls. If you're ever in Ireland, let me know. St Turibio Romo, intercede in aid of Fr Frank.

Fr. Frank said...

God bless and keep you and yours, Lynda. I confess, I'm afraid. Please pray that whatever the Divine Providence has ordained, my heart will be docile and receive it as a gift from the hand of Jesus. I'm a cantankerous old man, and relish skirmishes with liberal and feminist Catholics far, far more than is good for my soul. How sad it would be to have been deaf to my own warnings in my own homilies, and be lost. Please ask the Queen and Mother of priests to obtain the graces of clarity, humility, and perfect contrition. Thank you for your prayers. You have loved and suffered much for the Church -- and at the hands of the Church. I know your intercession for me will be powerful. Again, thank you.

Lynda said...

Dear Fr Blake, I think I submitted another message a few days ago (I definitely wrote it but perhaps it didn't go through) but it's not showing here. Did you get it? Thanks. Lynda