This homily, from Fr. John Speekman, an Australian, speaks to the very heart of obedience and steadfastness to the Faith.
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A
Isaiah 8:23- 9:3; 1Corinthians 1:10-13.17; Matthew 4:12-23
I appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice. From what Chloe's people have been telling me, my dear brothers, it is clear that there are serious differences among you.
In my opinion there is nothing more demoralising and destructive going on in our Catholic Church today than division, and it’s everywhere. Division causes peace and joy to evaporate and replaces them with tension and squabbling. The great temptation, of course, is to try to paper over the serious differences tearing our Church apart but clearly that’s not working.
Recently an article appeared in the quarterly magazine of the National Council of Priests of Australia (which represents no small percentage of Australia’s clergy). This article was written by a priest. It condemned Pope John Paul as ‘out of touch in scripture and limited in theology, a bad listener.’ Pope Benedict and Pope Paul VI were similarly rubbished. This priest slated the ‘theologically limited’ Roman Curia as well as our present bishops whom he sees as ‘low on creativity, leadership, education and even intelligence.’ He dissents from various key teachings of the Church, calling them ‘policies’ and consistently refers to the vocation of priesthood as a ‘job’. All in all, and without exaggeration, this article was enough to make one cry. What was totally lacking was love for and trust in the Church.
The next article, by another priest, aimed to demonstrate that missing Mass was not a big deal and should not worry us much. ‘In none of Jesus’ teachings do we find exhortations or commands to participate in weekly services of worship,’ he confidently asserts, as though Holy Mother Church had never existed.
Indeed, Chloe’s people were right: My dear brothers, it is clear that there are serious differences among you.
The ‘serious differences’ are really a profound crisis of faith. Catholics are unbelievably confused about the Faith. It seems all has boiled down to ‘opinions’ rather than obedience.
There is continual and deliberate spreading of errors in every segment of the Catholic Church by large numbers of priests and laity. The interior disunity of the Church is a bleeding sore which no one seems willing to stem. What a disaster! And what suffering for those Catholics who know the Faith and who know how things should actually be in their parishes!
Almost entirely gone is any notion of sin and so there is a general acceptance of those who habitually live in sin and there are many who do so. Confession has all but disappeared as a result of the confusion caused by disobedient priests who illicitly used the third rite of Reconciliation for many years. All this has resulted in parishes with great attendance at the parish barbeque and negligible numbers seriously living the Christian life, which has been reduced to ‘doing jobs at Mass’ and engaging in social activity around the parish.
As a priest committed to orthodoxy in faith and morals, in liturgical worship, obedience to Rome and especially, love for the Church, I meet with extraordinary opposition from priests and laity who are strangely angered and even scandalised at me. I believe it is because these priests have somehow come to believe that they have been commissioned to change the Church while I, and many like me, have clung to the apparently outdated notion that we should be letting the Church try to change us.
Pope Paul VI, one year before his death, said: There is a great uneasiness, at this time, in the world and in the Church, and that which is in question is the faith … What strikes me, when I think of the Catholic world, is that within Catholicism, there seems sometimes to predominate a non-Catholic way of thinking, and it can happen that this non-Catholic thought within Catholicism, will tomorrow become the stronger. But it will never represent the thought of the Church. (The Secret Paul VI by Jean Guitton, pages 152 and 153)
From prison Paul wrote to implore the Ephesians to preserve ‘the unity of the Spirit’ so that they would not be ‘carried along by every wind of doctrine, at the mercy of all the tricks men play and their cleverness in practising deceit.’(Eph 4:1.14)
To Timothy he wrote: The time is sure to come when, far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes and then, instead of listening to the truth, they will turn to myths. Be careful always to choose the right course… . (2Tim 4:3-5)
Be careful always to choose the right course! This is not advice; it is a warning - a warning on which depends our relationship with Christ and his Church and, therefore, our eternal future.
Many orthodox priests are anguished by the present state of our Church. Pope Paul VI rightly foresaw that it would become worse in succeeding years. I call upon you, my friends, to be equally concerned and to make every effort you can to learn the Faith and live the Faith of the Catholic Church and to resist anyone, anywhere, who attempts to pervert or misrepresent it.