Monday, June 13, 2011

Our faith is built on the solid foundation of truth

Last week, we were getting a deck installed at our vacation home near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  This deck is about six inches off of the ground.  The fellow installing the deck, Matthew Brown, used 45 bags of concrete as footers of this deck.   Matthew is convinced that the foundation of the deck is the most important part of the deck since it supports the rest of the structure.   So, our new deck is solid.  It doesn’t bounce, even if you jump on it.  In fact, I think the house will collapse before the deck ever does.
Yesterday, the feast of Pentecost, is the birthday of our Church.  When you consider our Church, its foundation is also critical.  The foundation of our Church is Peter, and his successors.  Jesus himself said: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.” 
The saint whose feast is tonight, Saint Anthony of Padua, a doctor of the Church, was born in 1195 and died in 1231.  St Anthony provided simple and resounding teaching on the Catholic faith, so that the most unlettered and innocent might understand it.  He is called the “hammer of the heretics.”  When St Anthony of Padua found he was preaching the true Gospel of the Church to heretics who would not listen to him, he then went out and preached it to the fishes. This was not for the instruction of the fishes, but rather for the glory of God, the delight of the angels, and the easing of his own heart. St. Anthony wanted to profess the Catholic faith with his mind and his heart, at every moment.
Today, there are some in our Church who could merit the title of the hammer of the heretics.  One would certainly be our current pope, Benedict XVI, who preaches the truth continuously, sometimes to audiences who reject it.    This unchanging truth, this solid foundation is required in our times of moral relativism.  Many would tell us that their truth isn’t the same as our truth.  When we hear this, we might be tempted to be silent and to let them go their way.  But out of Christian charity, we must continue to hammer away at the truth.  We must continue to hate the sin and to love the sinner.  If we continue to preach the simple and resounding teaching of the Catholic faith, we can be confident that we are following in the footsteps of Saint Anthony of Padua.
Like my deck in Gatlinburg, our faith is built on the solid foundation of the truth.  It would not stand for long if it were built on the sand of moral relativism.  Certainly, our faith requires time and study since we cannot rely on our own inclinations and whims to find this truth.  We must study the teachings of our church as handed down through the centuries from doctors of the church, like the hammer of the heretics, St. Anthony of Padua.   Only after we do this can we confidently proclaim this truth as it has been passed down to us by others who are far wiser than we are.
So tonight, let us give thanks for the unchanging truth of our faith and for the doctors of our Church, such as St Anthony of Padua who have proclaimed and clarified this truth for us and for future generations.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

God's love and our conscience

This reflection is based upon John chapter 21 verses 15 to 19.  In this Gospel reading, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him.  Each time Peter replies that he does.  Jesus might be asking this question three times to counteract Peter’s denying him three times.  Or it could be that Jesus is just emphasizing the point that Peter must love him.  Then, Jesus tells Peter a parable about old age.  He tells Peter that when he grows old someone else will dress him and will lead him where he doesn’t want to go.  This could be a reference to Peter’s eventual death on a cross.  Finally, Jesus tells Peter to follow him.  This sequence emphasizes Peter’s role in the Church.  As the head of the Church, as its rock, it is critical that Peter love Jesus and that he follow him. We see in Acts of the Apostles, that Peter does follow the footsteps of Jesus; that he works miracles and proclaims the message of Jesus.  Eventually, he dies on the cross as Jesus did.  It is said that Peter requested that he be crucified upside down because he wasn’t worthy to die the same type of death that Jesus did. 
Today, Jesus is telling us the same things that he told Peter.  He is constantly asking us if we love him and then telling us to feed his sheep.  Of course, our role isn’t nearly as important as Peter’s role was.  But, each of us is important in spreading the faith to those that we meet.  Imagine what our lives would be like if we didn’t have the gift of faith.  And for most of us, this wasn’t a conscious choice that we made but a free gift from our parents.  And we won’t have to suffer the death of a martyr in order to spread the faith to those we meet.  We just have to be a good example to others and to be able and willing to proclaim the faith when the opportunity presents itself.
The question, do you love Jesus, is an appropriate response from our conscience, after we sin.  And it is good for us to hear that question deep within ourselves.  When we hear this, it tells us that we aren’t so accustomed to sin that it doesn’t bother us.  Like Peter, we must quickly tell the Lord that we love him and, then, once again, follow him.
Paragraph 1783 of the Catechism tells us: “Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened.  A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful.  If formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator.  The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teaching.”
Pope Benedict recently said that Europe is doomed if conscience isn’t rediscovered when he said: 
“If, in keeping with the prevailing modern idea, conscience is reduced to the subjective field to which religion and morality have been banished, then the crisis of the West has no remedy and Europe is destined to collapse in on itself.  If, on the other hand, conscience is rediscovered as the place in which to listen to truth and good, the place of responsibility before God and before fellow human beings – in other words, the bulwark against all forms of tyranny – then there is hope for the future.”
Is there hope for the future here in Lebanon, Ohio?  Or have we also reduced conscience to a subjective thing?  The stakes are high.  The survival of society here is also dependent upon us, individually and as a society, listening to that voice within us which tells us to do good and to avoid evil.   Are we listening and are we following him or are we doing our own thing?