“The issue is now quite clear. It is between light and darkness and every one must choose his side.” G. K. Chesterton

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Authority, Christ's Gift to the Church

A sermon from Fr. Mark Lewis, Pastor of St. Luke's Ordinariate Catholic Community in Bladensburg, Maryland.  Delivered on the July 15, 2012, the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

I am sure all of you have heard the saying, “A man is only as good as his word.” Of a man who is totally trusted it is said, “His word is as good as gold.”  If we have this saying for humans, who are fallen sinful creatures, how much more accurate can this saying be for an all perfect, holy, creator-God?

Let’s take a minute to review some biblical texts.  God spoke the world into being. After the fall of man evil and sin entered the world.   God promised He would redeem the fallen state of man; He promised to defeat the evil forces that had entered His creation and sought to destroy His plan for creation. He sent prophets such as Amos and spoke through them to His people to repent. He spoke to His servants Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David, promising that a descendant would rise to the throne of Israel whose reign would last forever. He spoke to Moses, telling Him that He would raise up a prophet like him to lead His people. He spoke to Mary, informing her she was going to conceive a child through the power of the Holy Spirit; and in the fullness of time, Mary bore a child, and God became man. What we learn from this review is God is faithful to His word. We can trust in God’s word.  He cannot renege on His word, nor can His word change.  This is the consistent message throughout Scripture.

Do we understand this? Do we believe we can trust in what God has said and done?

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus called the twelve to Him and after teaching them, both by his actions and instructions, He sent them out to overcome the evil of the world as   precursor to what His death, resurrection and ascension would fully accomplish. He sent them out to bring order back to chaos.  He charged them not to take any extra items with them-any extra weight in their backpacks to slow them down. There is an urgency to go out into the world to call people to repentance, just like the prophets of old.  Even more so He charged them to bring God’s order back into the world by overcoming the works of the evil one. How are these men to accomplish this task? After all, the world had gotten into this condition because of man; how can we overcome it? This sounds like a job for the Son of God, not man; yet Jesus sent out His disciples. How are they to accomplish this task? They cannot on their own.  Jesus gave them his authority to do so.  That we can count on.

Jesus gave His disciples, the first bishops of the Church, His authority to continue His ministry in the world even after His ascension.   Before Jesus ascended into heaven He did not give His disciples a Bible to use as a weapon to continue His ministry.  He gave them His authority to teach; authority to proclaim; authority over unclean spirits; authority through the power of His spirit to continue to restore order and to bring all men back to a relationship with God the Father.

The whole structure of the Church rests on the authority of Jesus. What authority does Jesus possess? In the 28th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, just before His ascension Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” All authority-and Jesus gave His authority to His disciples. Through the power of the Holy Spirit they participated in His ministry of redemption. With this same authority the disciples when nearing their deaths passed along to their successors the authority that had been given unto them. They could do this because Jesus promised them He would be with them in their ministry forever, even unto the end of time. This is how much God loves us; He sent His Son into the world to redeem our fallen state.  Even after His ascension He remains present to us in His Church, in our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ; in His bishops; and by extension of their ministry His priests. And that is not all.  Jesus is not just present; He is still redeeming and sanctifying, bringing order to chaos, overcoming sin, death and evil.

On the night before he was betrayed he took bread, gave thanks and said, “Take eat, this is my body, do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus instructed His disciples to continue in the breaking of bread and sharing of the cup.   He promised that in doing so bread and wine would become His Body and Blood.  He instructed His disciples to baptize all people and all nations in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  He promised the Disciples the keys to the kingdom of heaven and that whatever they bound on earth would be bound in heaven and whatever they loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven.  God shows His love for us not just by being present with us, but through Sacramental graces. He continues to forgive, redeem and restore; He continues to overcome evil and strengthens us through the power of His Holy Spirit for His kingdom.

Holy Mother Church is where we find comfort, peace and joy; through her clergy we receive instruction on how to live and are fed by Christ Himself. The Church is where we are strengthened and empowered to go out into the world, with urgency to proclaim the Good News of God in Jesus Christ-in season and out, to family members, friends and co-workers.  We must bring them into the Church to meet Jesus and to receive His saving graces.

Now, I must admit there have been some pretty rotten fellows in the Church throughout the years, and some very sinful acts have occurred.  But thanks be to God, the holiness of the Church does not depend upon the holiness of its clergy or its people; it depends on the Holiness of its Head and Founder, Jesus Christ. He is the Faithful and Holy One, in whom we can trust, thus we can trust in His Church and in His Sacraments.

We stand at a very exciting time in history.   Our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, has encouraged us to re-evangelize the world.   He has provided former Anglicans the means tobe reunited to Holy Mother Church and all the grace she possesses. We have been given a special mission to go out to all those who are separated from the Church to bring them home. Home to where Jesus promised to be with us, to heal us, to redeem us, to restore us and fed us. Let us do so with sense of urgency, for Behold, the Kingdom of God is at hand! 

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