Saturday, November 18, 2006

We do not know the day or the hour - NOVEMBER 19, 2006

I was working at my desk on Monday afternoon and at 4:30 p.m. it was already dark. The damp, foggy, and misty weather did not help the situation. The short days of November mirror the spirit of the liturgy at this time of the year. Not only are the days short, but so also our lives as we do not know the day or the hour when the Lord will call us home. At that time we will be held accountable for what we have done or not done, for what we have said or not said, and for who we have become or not become in the time we have been given. At the end of the year we realize that actions have consequences. As kids we remember that too much candy means an upset stomach. A bicycle left out in the rain will rust or disappear. Homework assignments that are neglected receive a zero. At this time of the year we are reminded of Paul’s words to the Galatians: “What you sow, so also shall you reap.” Mindful of this we take a hard look at our moral and religious lives. Especially this week we thank God for our blessings. May these blessings be used wisely to build the Kingdom of God.
Fr. Bob Hawkins - NOVEMBER 19, 2006

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Last Sunday the gospel predicted all sorts of disasters and had a quote from Jesus saying that "this generation" would not pass away until all those things had taken place.

We are used to accepting that what the gospel says Jesus says is strictly true, for example, that "what God has joined together, no human being must separate."

Why is it that in the case of the first quote, we conveniently ignore or re-interpret a saying whose litteral meaning is obviously not true, whereas in the second case we refuse to stray from the litteral interpretation?

Chuck A. said...

Anonymous wrote:
> Why is it that in the case of the first quote, we conveniently ignore or re-interpret a saying whose litteral meaning is obviously not true, whereas in the second case we refuse to stray from the litteral interpretation?

Thanks for your comment:

Catholics are blessed with multiple resources to guide our understanding of sometimes confusing scriptural references.

The following excerpt from the booklet Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth addresses this issue.

God speaks to his Church through the Bible and through sacred Tradition. To make sure we understand him, he guides the Church’s teaching authority—the magisterium—so it always interprets the Bible and Tradition accurately. This is the gift of infallibility.

Sacred Tradition (CCC 75–83) Sacred Tradition should not be confused with mere traditions of men, which are more commonly called customs or disciplines. Jesus sometimes condemned customs or disciplines, but only if they were contrary to God’s commands (Mark 7:8). He never condemned sacred Tradition, and he didn’t even condemn all human tradition.

Sacred Tradition and the Bible are not different or competing revelations. They are two ways that the Church hands on the gospel. Apostolic teachings such as the Trinity, infant baptism, the inerrancy of the Bible, purgatory, and Mary’s perpetual virginity have been most clearly taught through Tradition, although they are also implicitly present in (and not contrary to) the Bible. The Bible itself tells us to hold fast to Tradition, whether it comes to us in written or oral form (2 Thess. 2:15, 1 Cor. 11:2).

Sacred Tradition should not be confused with customs and disciplines, such as the rosary, priestly celibacy, and not eating meat on Fridays in Lent. These are good and helpful things, but they are not doctrines. Sacred Tradition preserves doctrines first taught by Jesus to the apostles and later passed down to us through the apostles’ successors, the bishops.

Like the three legs on a stool, the Bible, Tradition, and the magisterium are all necessary for the stability of the Church and to guarantee sound doctrine.

Scripture (CCC 101–141)
Scripture, by which we mean the Old and New Testaments, was inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16). The Holy Spirit guided the biblical authors to write what he wanted them to write. Since God is the principal author of the Bible, and since God is truth itself (John 14:6) and cannot teach anything untrue, the Bible is free from all error in everything it asserts to be true.

Some Christians claim, "The Bible is all I need," but this notion is not taught in the Bible itself. In fact, the Bible teaches the contrary idea (2 Pet. 1:20–21, 3:15–16). The "Bible alone" theory was not believed by anyone in the early Church.

It is new, having arisen only in the 1500s during the Protestant Reformation. The theory is a "tradition of men" that nullifies the Word of God, distorts the true role of the Bible, and undermines the authority of the Church Jesus established (Mark 7:1–8).

Although popular with many "Bible Christian" churches, the "Bible alone" theory simply does not work in practice. Historical experience disproves it. Each year we see additional splintering among "Bible-believing" religions.

Today there are tens of thousands of competing denominations, each insisting its interpretation of the Bible is the correct one. The resulting divisions have caused untold confusion among millions of sincere but misled Christians.

Just open up the Yellow Pages of your telephone book and see how many different denominations are listed, each claiming to go by the "Bible alone," but no two of them agreeing on exactly what the Bible means.

We know this for sure: The Holy Spirit cannot be the author of this confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). God cannot lead people to contradictory beliefs because his truth is one. The conclusion? The "Bible alone" theory must be false.

The Magisterium (CCC 85–87, 888–892)
Together the pope and the bishops form the teaching authority of the Church, which is called the magisterium (from the Latin for "teacher"). The magisterium, guided and protected from error by the Holy Spirit, gives us certainty in matters of doctrine. The Church is the custodian of the Bible and faithfully and accurately proclaims its message, a task which God has empowered it to do.

Keep in mind that the Church came before the New Testament, not the New Testament before the Church. Divinely-inspired members of the Church wrote the books of the New Testament, just as divinely-inspired writers had written the Old Testament, and the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit to guard and interpret the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments.

Such an official interpreter is absolutely necessary if we are to understand the Bible properly. (We all know what the Constitution says, but we still need a Supreme Court to interpret what it means.)

The magisterium is infallible when it teaches officially because Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles and their successors "into all truth" (John 16:12–13).

You can access the complete text of this booklet at catholic.com/library/Pillar.asp

Questions of this nature are welcome and encouraged within St. Luke's Community.

Anonymous said...

Together the pope and the bishops form the teaching authority of the Church, which is called the magisterium (from the Latin for "teacher"). The magisterium, guided and protected from error by the Holy Spirit, gives us certainty in matters of doctrine.


How can this be "certain", when it changes over time? I think of the Church teachings as being in evolution, not as being fixed. I think of it as representing the best wisdom of people who have given their lives to understanding the word of God. They can be right and sometimes they can also be wrong. There are plenty of historical examples of mistake of the Church, examples which anti-religious people keep referring to. We cannot say that we are certain that what the magisterium teaches is the truth. In fact, I very much like the idea that over the span of centuries, the Church is gradually becoming wiser as its understanding of the teachings of Christ is deepening. Just like in science, there is such a thing as progress in religion, and oversimplifications can gradually give way to more subtle explanations. So, I think that indeed, the Church is the custodian of the Bible and tries to faithfully and accurately proclaims its message, with varying degrees of success depending on the historical period. We, members of the Church, should listen to teachings of the Magisterium with respect, because those teachings are the best effort of the wisest members of today's Church. However respect is not blind acceptance: yes, I should try to open my mind so as to understand what the Magisterium says; but I should not accept it if it doesn't make sense to me in spite of genuine willingness.

Chuck A. said...

Responding to the point from anonymous: How can this (the teaching of the Magisterium) be "certain"", when it changes over time?

From Can Dogma Develop? at CatholicAnswers.com:

Christians have always understood that at the close of the apostolic age—with the death of the last surviving apostle, John, perhaps around A.D. 100—public revelation ceased (Catechism of the Catholic Church 66–67, 73). Christ fulfilled the Old Testament law (Matt. 5:17) and is the ultimate teacher of humanity: "You have one teacher, the Messiah" (Matt. 23:10). The apostles recognized that their task was to pass on, intact, the faith given to them by the Master...

However, this closure to public revelation doesn’t mean there isn’t progress in the understanding of what has been entrusted to the Church.

In answering these questions, the Church facilitates the development or maturing of doctrines. The Blessed Virgin Mary models this process of coming to an ever deeper understanding of God’s revelation: "But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). It’s important to understand that the Church does not, indeed cannot, change the doctrines God has given it, nor can it "invent" new ones and add them to the deposit of faith that has been "once for all delivered to the saints." New beliefs are not invented, but obscurities and misunderstandings regarding the deposit of faith are cleared up.

Vatican II explained, "The tradition which comes from the apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts, through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For, as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her" (Dei Verbum 8).
-- end of excerpt from Can Dogma Develop?

This is consistent with the idea that over the span of centuries, the Church is gradually becoming wiser as its understanding of the teachings of Christ is deepening. Just like in science, there is such a thing as progress in religion, and oversimplifications can gradually give way to more subtle explanations.

There have been many instances, when I personally did not understand or agree with a particular teaching from the Church, but over time, (in my case measured in decades) I came to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the truth.

Thanks for encouraging me to explore this question in more depth.
Peace

When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. Corinthians 1:11-12

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your answer,
and for the last quote from the Corinthians, which I had been unsuccessfully trying to bring back to my memory.

Chuck A. said...

Father Bob mentioned to me on Sunday that he would be very pleased to discuss this in person. You can contact him at St. Luke's rectory.
Peace,