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Mt 16:13-19 Peter’s Confession About Jesus (Solemnity of Peter and Paul)

Today is the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the two great apostles and pillars of the Church martyred for their faith in Christ in the same city of Rome at about 64-67 AD. Today the Church is joyfully celebrating the memory of both of them. The “Rock” and the “Chosen Instrument” to preach the gospel to the Gentiles definitively met each other in Rome. There they brought to completion their apostolic ministry, sealing it with the shedding of their blood.

As we celebrate this feast of Sts. Peter and Paul let be us reminded once again that the Church is apostolic, one of the distinguishing marks of the true Church founded by Christ. Every Sunday, Solemnity and Holy Day of Obligation, we profess all that we believe as Catholics by reciting the Creed. If you notice, one of the articles of faith is our belief in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic  Church of Christ. In the context of today’s feast of Sts. Peter and Paul allow me to focus more on the Church as apostolic.

This sole Church of Christ is apostolic. The apostolic origin and basis of the Church is what is termed its “apostolicity”, a special characteristic of the Church which we confess in the Creed. Apostolicity consists in the Pope and the Bishops being successors of Peter and the Apostles, holding the authority of the Apostles and proclaiming the same teaching as they did. “The sacred synod teaches that the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the Apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and Him who sent Christ (cf. Luke 10:15)” (Vatican II, “Lumen Gentium”, 20).

The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:

–     she was and remains built on “the foundation of the Apostles” (Eph 2:20; rev. 21:14), the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself (cf. Mt 28:16:20; Act 1:8; 1 Cor 9:1; 15:7-8; Gal 1:1);

–     with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching (cf. Acts 2:42), the “good deposit of faith,” the salutary words she has heard from the apostles (cf. 2 Tim 1:13-14);

–     she continues to be taught, sanctified and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, “assisted by priests, in union with the successors of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor” (AG 5):

“You are the eternal Shepherd who never leaves his flock untended. Through the apostles you watch over us and protect us always. You made them shepherds of the flock to share in the work of your Son…” (Roman Missal, Preface of the Apostles I) (CCC 857).

The apostles’ mission. Jesus is the Father’s Emissary. From the beginning of his ministry, he “called to him those whom he desired; …And he appointed twelve, whom also he named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach” (Mk 3:13-14). From then on, they would also be his “emissaries” (Greek apostoloi). In them, Christ continues his own mission: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20:21); cf. 13:20; 17:18). The Twelve apostles’ ministry is the continuation of his mission; Jesus said to the Twelve: “he who receives you receives me” (Mt 10:40; cf. Luke 10:16).

Pope – successor of Peter. Bishops – successors of the apostles.  In order that the mission entrusted to them might be continued after their death [the apostles] consigned, by the will and testament, as it were, to their immediate collaborators the duty of completing and consolidating the work they had begun, urging them to tend to the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit had appointed them to shepherd the Church of God. They accordingly designated such men and made the ruling that likewise on their death other proven men should take over their ministry” (LG 20; cf. Acts 20:28; St. Clement of Rome, Ad Cor. 42, 44: PG 1, 291-300).

“Just as the office which the Lord confided to Peter alone, as first of the apostles, destined to be transmitted to his successors, is a permanent, so also endures the office, which the apostles received, of shepherding the Church, a charge destined to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops” (LG 20 par. 2). Hence the Church teaches that “the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ” (LG 20 par. 2).

The Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well.  Since the Church is “sent out” into the whole world, all members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways. Apostolate is “every activity of the Mystical Body” that aims “to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth” (AA 2).

“Christ, sent by the Father, is the source of the Church’s whole apostolate”; thus the fruitfulness of apostolate for ordained ministers as well as for lay people clearly depends on their vital union with Christ”  (AA 4; cf. Jn 15:5)… Charity drawn from the Eucharist above all, is always “as it were, the soul of the whole apostolate” (AA 3).

To sum up, “The Church is apostolic. She is built on a lasting foundation: “the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:14). She is indestructible (cf. Mt 16:18). She is upheld infallibly in truth: Christ governs her through Peter and the other apostles, who are present in their successors, the Pope and the college of bishops” (CCC 869).

Challenge.  As baptized Catholic Christians, we are also “apostles” (being sent). Like Sts. Peter and Paul in our unworthiness and sinfulness, we are witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself. We can bear much fruits in our apostolate only when we are faithful always to the teachings handed to us by the apostles and their successors and continued to be taught, sanctified and guided  by the apostles until Christ’ returns, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, “assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church supreme pastor” (AG 5). Because “whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ” LG 20 par. 2).

Therefore, rejoice that the Lord has chosen you to be a member of his body, the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church of Christ. Love the Church (Eph 5:25).  Freely and humbly submit to the authority of the Church (see Heb 13:17). Share the faith. For “Faith is “preserved” by being given” (Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, n. 2). Commit wholeheartedly in the service of the faith, service of unity, service of the mission (cf. Encyclical Letter, Ut unum sint, n. 88). And following the examples of Jesus and his apostles Peter and Paul, may we lay down our life also for the Church (Eph. 5:25).

 

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John 20:19-23 Jesus Breathes The Spirit (Pentecost Sunday)

Today we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost. Pentecost comes from the Greek word “Pentecostes” which means “Fiftieth.” As we celebrate this Feast we commemorate the sending of the Holy Spirit by Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior or the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples in particular, and the Church in general fiftieth day after Jesus had risen from the dead.

We also celebrate the birthday of the universal Church, because as you know, today the Church was fully born, through the breath of Christ, the Holy Spirit. As Pope Paul VI wrote:

“Today, as you know, the Church was fully born, through the breath of Christ, the Holy Spirit; and in the Church was born the Word, the witness to and promulgation of  salvation in the risen Jesus; and in him who listens to this promulgation is born faith, and with faith a new life, an awareness of the Christian vocation and the ability to hear that calling and to follow it by living a genuinely human life, indeed a life which is not only human but holy. And to make this divine intervention effective, today was born the apostolate, the priesthood, the ministry of the Spirit, the calling to unity, fraternity and peace” (Paul VI, “Address”, 25 May 1969).

There are three most important reasons why Jesus promised then sent the Holy Spirit to his disciples and to his Church which he established on the foundation of the apostles:

First, Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to guide her to the whole truth. If you still recall “God wills all men to be saved and to come to the fullness of the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4), that is,  Jesus, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). This is the context why Jesus said, “When the Holy Spirit comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16:13). What Jesus had said in Jn 8:31-32, “If you remain in my word you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,” will ultimately be realized through the intervention and assistance of the Holy Spirit to the disciples after Jesus’ departure.

In what ways the Holy Spirit will guide the Church to the whole truth?

·     It is through the Scripture. Paul is very clear about this in his letter to Timothy: “All scripture is inspired of God and is useful for teaching, for reproof,  correction, and training in holiness so that man of God may be fully competent equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:15). Hence, read, study, pray with the Scripture and be a walking Bible which even the illiterate person can read and understand. Be reminded of the words of St. Jerome: “Ignorance of Christ is ignorance of the Scripture.”

  • It is through the magisterium or teaching authority of the Church. St. Paul is also very clear about this authority of the Church to teach and proclaim Christ and his Gospel when he wrote: “The Church is steward and teacher of the mysteries of God.” Let us therefore, listen to the teaching of the Church especially in the areas of faith and moral. As Jesus himself warned: “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me”  (Luke 10:16).

Second, Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to the Church to be the source of forgiveness and holiness. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once curiously interviewed by the reporter whether she felt uneasy to hear some people calling her “living saint?”  In reply she simply said, “What is something extraordinary about that? Are we not all called to be saints? Sanctity or holiness is to be perfect and mature in our love of God and neighbor and to be another Christ in the world. How do we know that we are somehow already in the state of holiness? As St. Paul says, “When it is no longer I who lives in me but Christ.”

Holiness requires conversion of heart on our part. Conversion requires repentance. Repentance requires humble recognition of our sinfulness and wickedness before God. Recognition of our sinfulness and wickedness to be true and fruitful requires confession and forgiveness of sins through the ministry of reconciliation. This is the reason why in the Gospel Jesus said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20:23). This is also the context why the formula of absolution contained: “Send you Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. And through the ministry of the Church may God give pardon and peace. I absolve you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Third, Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to the Church to empower her to fulfill the saving mission entrusted by Christ. I think it worth recalling that Jesus before he ascended to heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father, he gathered his disciples and gave them a mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:22); “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15); “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Mt 28:19). Jesus Christ last words before his return to the Father constitute a “missionary mandate”.

The goal of missionary activity is to make the Good News of Salvation reach the farthest ends of the earth; the Church began to spread it on the day of Pentecost itself when the Holy Spirit descended upon Mary and the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room. By evangelizing the nations, the Church fulfills her own vocation, because she exists in order to evangelize (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14).

Although the feast of Pentecost is the end of the Easter season, Pentecost is a beginning. It is the birthday of the Church. Pentecost is a grand beginning more than it is a grand finale.

The day of the first Christian Pentecost began with 120 people receiving the Holy Spirit at 9 AM (see Acts 1:15; 2:15), and these 120 brought the Holy Spirit to 3,000 people before the day was over (see Acts 2:41). The next day those 3,000 tried to reach several more thousands (see Acts 4:4). Over the centuries, some Christians continued to share Pentecost with others (e.g. Acts 9:17; 19:2ff), but some have “dropped the ball” and quenched the Spirit (see 1 Thes 5:19). At present, over two billion people have received the Holy Spirit through Baptism.  Now we are to share this Pentecost with over four billion people as soon as possible. When we do, the Spirit, as promised, will have renewed the face of the earth (Ps 104:30). Then Jesus will return; the world will end; and we who have been faithful in constantly proclaiming Pentecost will be with the Lord forever in perfect, infinite love.

As Pope John Paul II wrote in his Angelus’ message in 1980: The Church does not cease – cannot cease – to go with the Gospel to all those who do not yet know it. In the same way as she does not cease to return with the Gospel to all those who have strayed from it. She does so heedless of the difficulties that accumulate on her missionary way. She does so in the spirit of the Apostle, who wrote: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor 9:16). The whole Church and everyone in the Church who lets himself be guided by the spirit of responsibility for the Gospel, must repeat the same thing. “The mission of the Church – the Second Vatican Council stated – is carried out by means of that activity through which, in obedience to Christ’s command, moved by the grace and love of the Holy Spirit, the Church makes itself fully present to all men and peoples in order to lead them to the faith, freedom and peace of Christ by the example of its life and teaching, by the sacraments and other means of grace” (Ad Gentes, 5).

“Missionary activity is a matter for all Christians, for all dioceses and parishes, Church institutions and associations” (Redemptoris Missio, n.2).  “The Lord’s call to proclaim the Good News is still valid today: indeed it is ever more urgent. The call to mission acquires a singular urgency, particularly if we look at that part of humanity which still does not know Christ or recognize Him. Like Paul, we are cursed if we do not preach the Gospel. Preach, therefore, Christ and his Gospel in season and out of season!” (Pope John Paul II, 75th anniversary of the World Mission Sunday).

In a noisy world full of confusions and characterized by divisive conflicts the Holy Spirit can be our Advocate – a teacher, a guide, helper and our intercessor. Turn to Him, therefore, at all times. He is our strength, courage, consolation and inspiration. He stays constantly by our side as he leads us to holiness

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Lk 19:45-48 The Cleansing of the Temple

The Temple played an important part in the life of Israel fundamentally because the Temple was considered God’s own house, His dwelling place on earth in the midst of his people. The Jews  believed that God lives in heaven, but he hears the prayers that are addressed to him in the Temple. They looked upon the Temple as a sort of good luck charm that would protect them against hostile forces, whether or not they lived so as to deserve protection (Jer 7:1-15; 26:1-15; see Exod 8-10).

The Temple played an important part in the life of the Israel secondarily as place of worship and sacrifice or assembly. Although there were many shrines throughout the land, particularly during the period of judges, the Temple is said to be the center of legitimate worship; indeed as the only place of worship in Israel; and it is true that eventually it was recognized as such.

Like the prophets before him Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the temple of Jerusalem. It was in the Temple that Joseph and Mary presented him forty days after his birth (Lk 2:22-39). At the age of twelve he decided to remain in the Temple to remind his parents that he must be about his Father’s business (Cf. Lk:46-49). He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover (Cf. Lk 2:41). His public ministry was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts (Cf. Jn 2:13-14; 5:1; 14; 7:1, 10, 14; 8:2; 10:22-23) (CCC 583).

Jesus went up to the Temple as the privileged place of encounter with God. For him, the Temple was the dwelling of his Father, a house of prayer. In today’s Gospel narrative, he was angered that its outer court had become a place of commerce (Cf. Mt 21:13). So, he drove merchants out of it and commanded them: “You shall not make the my Father’s house a house of trade (Luke 19:46).

Christ gave reason for his dislodging the temple-merchants (Lk 19:46). The temple is a house of prayer, set apart for communion with God: the buyers and sellers made it a den of thieves by the fraudulent bargains they made there, which were hurting the poor and the pilgrims who can least afford them, for it would be a distraction to those who came there to pray.

What are some of the possible moral applications that we can take from this narrative?

First, the Temple is God’s house, His dwelling place in the midst of His people here on earth. Hence, it is sacred that demands due care and reverence. Profanation or desecration through sexual immoralities, murder, divination and occult, idolatry, immodest attire and gestures and blasphemous words must be avoided at all times, at all costs and by all means.

Second, the Temple is a place of worship and sacrifice. Make this as your motivation and purpose in going to the Church and keep them clear. Hence, never go to Church to steal, to slander, to boast your riches, power and beautiful body, to do business, to give intrigue and scandal, to observe passively as spectators and strangers and to sleep.

Third, the Temple is a place set apart, dedicated and consecrated for the glorification of God and sanctification of humankind. Hence, other uses or functions like making the Church or chapel a place of eating; seminar or conference hall, rest house, study hall, concert hall and stage for the program or any ceremony must be avoided, if not, prohibited.

Fourth, the Church is the fulfillment of the Temple. Hence, we must have a passionate love for the Church. In the new covenant of Jesus, the Temple is fulfilled in the Church. The Church is so important in God’s plan that Jesus calls the Church His body (e.g. Eph 1:22-23) and His bride (see Eph 5:25ff). Jesus has given the Church the keys of God’s kingdom (Mt 16:19). Jesus loves the Church so much that He died for her (Eph 5:25). “Christians of the first centuries said, ‘The world was created for the sake of the Church’ ” (Catechism, 760). “The Church is the goal of all things” (Catechism, 760).

Pray that you will love the Church as much as Jesus wants you to love her. Ask Him to cleanse your temple of all sins (see Lk 19:46ff), especially pride and selfishness, so that you will love His Temple, the Church, as He does. Dedicate and consecrate once again yourself to the Lord (see 1 Mc 4:54ff). Because you are a member of His body, your constant dedication and consecration will build up the Church. Live and die for Jesus and for His Church.

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