for Sunday, August 21, 2011
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! - these words
from today's second reading can serve as the subject of today's readings.
One of the most important aspects of our Christian faith is that it comes
out of the Jewish faith and remains related to that faith forever. We
cannot understand our faith until we begin to understand the faith of our
Jewish ancestors. It is simply impossible.
So often we Christians don't understand our faith. There should be no
surprise that we do not understand it fully, but every day we should be
spending some time letting our faith deepen, allowing our intellect to
understand more of our faith and allowing our emotion and reason to be
converted to the Lord.
The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, uses terminology that Jesus
uses in today's Gospel from Saint Matthew. The first thing to note in both
readings is that God is the one who gives authority to those whom He
chooses. So often we think of religious authority in the same way as we
think of secular, civil authority: might makes right, the most
unscrupulous person gets most of the power or those who can pay off others
with money and other benefits. That is a pretty dismal view of secular,
civil authority, but it does not take too much research to see that in
general, it is true.
Religious authority, according to the Gospel, is about forgiveness of sins
and about service to others. The fact is, of course, that religious
authority is also just as easily corrupted as secular, civil authority.
We Catholics are not, however, people who live only by the Spirit. The
Church is an incarnate presence of the Lord Jesus, founded by Him and
sustained by His Holy Spirit. Because it is incarnate, even the authority
of the keys has at times been corrupted by sin. Still there is a promise
of infallibility to the Church and to the person of the Pope. Today's
Gospel speaks directly to these powers, using more gentle terms. There can
be no doubt, however, that Jesus gives special authority to Peter. We also
believe that such power is given to Peter's successors.
Only an authentic faith shows us the truth of these assertions. Only a
deep belief in the transmission of authority and office in the Church
convinces us that this is so. The early Christians believed this, without
a doubt, even though they may have squabbled about how it was lived and
Today's Scriptures invite us once again to renew our faith in the Lord
Jesus, in the establishment of one Church, in the authority of Peter
expressed in the Pope and in God's divine presence within the humanity of
the Church institution. May our own understanding and acceptance grow.
Readings of the day:
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: