25th Sunday in Ordinary Time “C”
In order to correctly form our consciences, every Christian needs to know the truth, otherwise our eternal salvation may be in jeopardy. So where does a Christian go today to know what is the truth particularly on matters pertaining to our faith and to our morals?
Well, St. Paul in his letter to Timothy today tells us that "God our Saviour, wills that everyone should be saved and that everyone should come to the knowledge of the truth."
So where do we go to find this truth that God wants us to have, so that we might be saved?
I mean, if God wills that all should be saved and come to the truth, doesn’t it make sense that He would have made it absolutely certain that there was a place we could go to be absolutely positive that we could hear and find the knowledge of the truth for our eternal salvation. Not maybe, but positively.
For certain the truth begins with Christ. Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” If we believe He was and is God, as He said He was, then He must have provided for some positive way for us to come to the knowledge of the truth of His teachings.
If Christ taught the truth, how did He teach it? How do we find out what truth He taught and where do we find that truth today? After all, Christ is not here in person to tell us, is He?
And, once we find those truths we need to be able to understand them in order to live according to the truths taught by Christ.
Doesn’t that make sense?
But since Christ is now in heaven how are we supposed to know if our understanding of the truth, once we find it, is the correct interpretation?
Like Naaman the Ethiopian who was reading from the prophet Isaiah but not understanding a word of it, when he was approached by the apostle Philip, who asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading? Naaman answered “How can I unless someone guides me?” We also need someone to guide us to find the truth.
Well, Christ knew this so He did not leave us orphans. He did not leave us without a guide.
Before He ascended into heaven Jesus told the eleven, "I am with you always until the end of time" (Matt. 28:20). Now these Apostles eventually all died.
These men did not remain on earth "until the end of time," so clearly Jesus was speaking about a certain fidelity, a fidelity which extended beyond the deaths of the Apostles, a fidelity which was to guide the apostles while they lived and when they passed on, this fidelity would continue to guide their successors until the end of time.
This was Jesus’ promise. “I am with you always until the end of time, not just until the end of your lives, but until the end of time.”
So how did Jesus keep His promise to be us until the end of time?
In John chapter 14, Jesus said to the twelve, "I shall ask the Father and He will give you another Paraclete to be with you forever, ( a paraclete is an advocate).
(Jesus was the first advocate) and now He says to His apostles: “I shall ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth whom the world can never accept since it neither sees nor knows Him..." (John 14:17).
Here He promises that even though He himself will be gone into heaven the Father will send the Holy Spirit who will remain with us forever. And the world will not accept this since it does not know God.
Christ did not leave us orphans. He left us a guide. This guide is the church. Christ established a church. A church which would guide us and be there for us until the end of time.
The Holy Spirit would be with His church until the end of time. That’s how He kept His promise.
How do we know this?
"You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church" (Mt 16:18). Can it be any plainer than that?
When Jesus founded the Church He established a concrete, visible institution that can be traced in an unbroken line down through the centuries.
Jesus spoke of the Church as "a city set on a mountain" (Mt 5:14). The Church is not invisible. It was intended by God to be readily identifiable.
When Jesus declared that the apostle Peter was the "rock" on which He would build His Church, He made it possible for us to identify that Church, so we would know where it could be found.
St. Peter became the first bishop of Rome, and the bishops of Rome who have succeeded him (the popes) have continued to fill his special office as the "rock."
So now we know where to find His church. The Bible tells us that wherever the Pope is – there is Christ’s church.
According to the Bible, the Church is built, as St. Paul tells us, on "the foundation of the apostles" (Eph 2:20), whom Christ Himself chose (see Jn 6:70-71; Acts 1:2, 13;
After Judas defected, the remaining eleven apostles appointed the disciple Matthias as the successor to his office (see Acts 1:20-26). The term translated in this passage "office" (1:20), and applied to Judas, is in Greek episkopen — literally, Bishop.
If Judas, as an apostle, was a bishop, then by logical extension, all the apostles, according to the Bible, were also Bishops.
Given that the apostles were bishops then, and if, according to the Bible, one of them was replaced by another bishop after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, then we have here an explicit example of apostolic succession in the Bible.
Clearly, apostolic succession is a reality that existed and was recognized by the apostles within days after Christ returned to heaven and this is explicitly explained in Holy Scripture.
The Catholic Church traces herself back historically, in an unbroken succession of Bishops, right back to the first apostles.
As a deacon I was ordained by a Bishop, who was ordained by a Bishop, who was ordained by a Bishop, who was ordained by a Bishop, all the way back to one of the Apostles.
Father Kaz was also ordained by a Bishop, who was ordained by a Bishop, who was ordained by a Bishop, all the way back 2000 years until we come to an Apostle, who, having been ordained by Christ, then later ordained other Bishops. Eliminating all the “middle men” we can readily see that Father Kaz was actually chosen and ordained by Christ Himself. Isn’t that awesome?
This Apostolic succession is proof positive of the sign of authenticity, necessary to identify which groups claiming to be Christian could legitimately be recognized as part of the Church that Jesus Christ Himself established.
This is why when we form our conscience we need to give top priority to what the church teaches on the matter, especially in faith and morals.
If we go our own way and reject the teachings of the church because they are inconvenient or simply because we do not agree with them, then we need to remember the words of Christ:
“Whoever, hears you hears Me, and whoever rejects you rejects Me, and whoever rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”
If Christ came here today and said that contraception is an evil, or same sex marriage is not in my plan, or living together as man and wife but not being married is a serious sin.
If we heard this from Christ Himself, would we listen to Him or would we reject Him and walk away?
The Lord has given us a great gift in the Church and its teachings. Some teachings are more difficult and certain than others, but all the authentic teachings of the Church should be given at least "a loyal submission of the will and intellect."
Because the church is not just another voice crying in the wilderness. The church is not just a man-made institution expressing it’s own opinion. The church is divinely instituted.
When the Church speaks we hear the truth. When the Church speaks we hear the voice of Christ.
Because the Catholic Church is the instrument that Christ chose to ensure that He would be with us until the end of time.
Therefore we can see that there are serious consequences involving our eternal salvation whenever we reject the church and any of its teachings. There are serious consequences involving our eternal salvation whenever we reject any of the truth.
As it says in today’s Gospel, we can choose to serve the world, we can choose to serve ourselves, or we can choose to serve God. We cannot serve both. We have to make a choice.
We can choose to listen to the church or we can choose to listen to the world, and we know that listening to the world quite often is the easier thing to do.
“God our Saviour, wills that everyone should be saved and that everyone should come to the knowledge of the truth.”
We would do well to embrace this gift that God gave us. The gift of the Church. Because it is God’s will that the church be a wonderful source of truth, the truth given for our eternal salvation.
God Bless You
Deacon Bernie Ouellette