12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The words of Jesus in the Gospel today are enormously important for us now, at this particular moment in life.
How easy it is to be caught into the mass of contradictory facts and fictions of the mass media, it seems that our age, like others before us in history, is susceptible to various forms of unfounded theory, conspiracy or otherwise. That is why it has always been important to have sound, solid, trustworthy voices to which we can turn when in confusion and doubt about faith matters, those voices of trusted theologians, spiritually mature guides, scholars with clear, well studied biblical and theological knowledge to help us understand the Word of God.
I know only too well as a practising theologian, that some faithful, including a few bishops and clergy, are very suspicious of the intellectual aspect of faith, erroneously assuming that we are doing our own thing, when in fact the vocation of any academic in service of the Church, is just that, the service of bringing truth to our understanding of faith, that 'fides quaerens intellectum' of St Anselm.
There are always risks, but isn't there also a call to greater trust in that gifted presence of the Holy Spirit from whom we receive wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, amongst other all other gifts.
Saint Bernard preaching one of his sermons to the monastic community at Clairvaux, said: 'Happy is the one who has found wisdom. Even more happy is the one who lives in wisdom, for they perceive its abundance'. In that comment about perception, Bernard takes us to where we are now, the faithful who have the task of making sense of what we hear and see, we are the perceiving ones, those who discern the fruits of this teaching and knowledge, because it is in its reception by us that the truth of what is given will be known.
Just as a reminder, the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly asserts that through our baptismal gifts the Spirit guides and helps us, so that as the Body of Christ, "from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals."(CCC III:97) This gives me at least, great peace and great hope, for it builds on the promises of Christ and that outpouring on us of the Spirit, but it comes with a cost, as does all discipleship, it demands of us growth in our faith!
Advertising, even in church matters, plays on our desires not only to have those things we see presented so cleverly before us, but also to suggest that it is easy to get what we want, particularly if we have the money to do so. Yet Jesus condemns this kind of commercialism, the falsity of it all, he sees beneath the glib words and the attractive packaging to ask us; what is the reality of that being offered, do we really need such things, have we thought of how it was made, from whence it came and at what cost to others?
Christ is also fairly quick to attack those who peddle easy solutions in faith matters, particularly when it involves any kind of hypocrisy, so his words are very resonant with our times, where one of the casualties of life seems to be truth itself:'Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops'.( Mt 10:26,27) The 'them' he refers to, are those who persecute the followers of Jesus, not necessarily in open ways but also by attrition, innuendo, scandal,lies and dismissive comment. So what to do? Be people of truth not of the lie, remind each other that fidelity to Christ is to a true relationship with him, found particularly in the actions of the `Beatitudes, and be secure, unafraid in your/our acknowledgement of him, so use your mind as well as your heart, see your faith as a journey in which we begin to discover the truth of God. May his words remain with you this week: ' So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father'.(Mt 10:31/32)
From a Sermon of Saint Bernard
On the Search for Wisdom
Let us work for the food which does not perish - our salvation. Let us work in the vineyard of the Lord to earn our daily wage in the wisdom which says: Those who work in me will not sin. Christ tells us: The field is the world. Let us work in it and dig up wisdom, its hidden treasure, a treasure we all look for and want to obtain.
If you are looking for it, really look. Be converted and come. Converted from what? From your own wilfulness. "But," you may say, "if I do not find wisdom in my own will, where shall I find it? My soul eagerly desires it. And I will not be satisfied when I find it, if it is not a generous amount, a full measure, overflowing into my hands." You are right, for blessed is the man who finds wisdom and is full of prudence.
Look for wisdom while it can still be found. Call for it while it is near. Do you want to know how near it is? The word is near you, in your heart and on your lips, provided that you seek it honestly. Insofar as you find wisdom in your heart, prudence will flow from your lips, but be careful that it flows from and not away from them, or that you do not vomit it up. If you have found wisdom, you have found honey. But do not eat so much that you become too full and bring it all up. Eat so that you are always hungry. Wisdom says: Those who eat me continue to hunger. Do not think you have too much of it, but do not eat too much or you will throw it up. If you do, what you seem to have will be taken away from you, because you gave up searching too soon. While wisdom is near and while it can be found, look for it and ask for its help. Solomon says: A man who eats too much honey does himself no good; similarly, the man who seeks his own glorification will be crushed by that same renown.
Catechism of the Catholic Church III
91 "All the faithful share in understanding and handing on revealed truth. They have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who instructs them and guides them into all truth.
92 "The whole body of the faithful. . . cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals."
93 "By this appreciation of the faith, aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth, the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (Magisterium),. . . receives. . . the faith, once for all delivered to the saints. . . thePeople unfailingly adheres to this faith, penetrates it more deeply with right judgment, and applies it more fully in daily life."
Growth in understanding the faith
94 Thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the understanding of both the realities and the words of the heritage of faith is able to grow in the life of the Church:
- "through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts"; it is in particular "theological research [which] deepens knowledge of revealed truth". - "from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which [believers] experience", The sacred Scriptures "grow with the one who reads them."
- "from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth".
95 "It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls."
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