The True Apostle Is Never a Fanatic.
The Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Lessons from the primary dominica, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Malachi 1: 14—2: 2, 8-10.
• Psalm 131.
• I Thessalonians 2: 7-9, 13.
• Matthew 23: 1-12.
The Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost.
Lessons from the dominica, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Philippians 1: 6-11.
• Psalm 132: 1-2.
• Matthew 22: 15-21.
The Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost (the Seventh after the Holy Cross); the Feast of the Holy Martyrs Galaction & Episteme; and, the Remembrance of the Passing of the Blessed Martyr Gregory Lakota, Auxiliary Bishop of Przemysl.*
Lessons from the pentecostarion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• Galatians 6: 11-18.
• Luke 8: 41-56.**
6:43 AM 11/5/2017 — The Gospel lessons at Holy Mass all this past week have contained many of our Lord’s sayings and parables about humility and against hypocrisy, and they all seem to climax in today’s lesson from Matthew's Gospel. It's important to note that our Lord doesn't challenge the authority of the Scribes and Pharisees; quite the contrary, they sit “on the chair of Moses,” says our Lord, and charges His followers to “observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example” (23: 2-3 NABRE).
That's an important distinction for all of us. How often do we find ourselves griping and moaning about the Pope, about the Bishop, about our parish priest; but, we always, thank God, manage to stop ourselves because we know that we're all in the same boat. We're all human, and each one of us can only perform according to his or her gifts. And this is self-evident in every aspect of life, not just religion. We get annoyed with our spouses, we get annoyed with our kids, we get annoyed with our parents, but that doesn't mean we don't love them. It means we're all different; and, thank God for that, otherwise this world would be a very boring place. Think back to the quote I gave you from the Rule of Saint Bruno on Ash Wednesday many months ago: we've got enough of a job purifying our own souls; we don't need to be policing everybody else’s.
But as He calls out the Scribes and Pharisees for their lack of concern for the souls they profess to guide and govern, He gives a wonderful instruction on what they should be. The verses are easily misunderstood when taken out of the context of what our Lord is talking about, especially by Protestants, who often like to take isolated verses of Holy Writ and turn them into dogmatic statements all by themselves; hence, they’ll criticize Catholics for addressing a priest as “Father.” That’s not what concerns our Lord here. All He’s doing is reminding everyone that all authority—but particularly authority in religion, including in the Church—derives from God, and the authority of God is always applied in the form of fatherly love and concern.
And the other lessons of today’s Mass give us two striking examples which lend color to our Lord’s instruction. In the first, our heavenly Father, speaking through the voice of the Prophet Malachi, excoriates the priests of Israel for their lack of fatherly concern, cursing them for misleading the faithful by their lack of example and, particularly, their lack of sound teaching. He curses them for showing favoritism and for failing to live the way of life they preach. All of us could, I’m sure, think back to all the priests the Church has sent into our lives over the years and pass judgment on them based on Malachi’s standards. We try not to, I’m sure, because it would offend our Lord to be so judgmental, so we keep it to ourselves; but, all of us can think back to priests we may have known who seemed to us to show favoritism, not living what they preach from the pulpit, not being faithful to the teaching of Holy Mother Church in what they preach or even in the guidance they give in the confessional. That’s when we have to think back to what our Lord says in today’s Gospel lesson about respecting the Scribes and Pharisees: we each perform according to our gifts, and we have our own faults, too.
By contrast, we have the wonderful example of Saint Paul, grieved by the fact that the children he brought into the faith are on hard times, and he is too far away to be there for them. Not only does he invoke the image of a father, but also that of a nursing mother, as his heart overflows with what is clearly genuine emotion, going so far as to tell them that it was not only the Gospel he shared with them, but his very self. When the Blessed Apostle writes to the Thessalonians this way, he epitomizes the very essence of the fatherhood of Christ, who not only gave Himself on the Cross to relieve us of our sins, but continues to give of Himself to feed our souls with grace through the Blessed Eucharist.
But it’s important to note exactly how the Apostle frames and identifies what makes his love for his children so Christ-like: “…in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe” (2: 13 RM3). In other words, what makes Paul such a loving father is that the message he labored to bring them wasn’t his own, it was Christ’s. He typifies the very opposite of that for which Malachi cursed the Levites, who led people astray by preaching something other than the word of God. Think back to our Lord’s words: “…but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18: 6 RSV).
There is a certain sense in which all of us exercise a kind of fatherhood over one another—by our example, by our own preaching, by our own witness of the Gospel to everyone we meet. It may be particularly true of parents, but still true in the broader sense of all of us. But it’s incumbent of us to make sure that what we’re bearing witness to is true and correct, and not something of our own manufacture. This means not only speaking the truth of the faith clearly and correctly whenever the situation requires, but also having the humility to remain silent, not only when there’s the risk of saying something wrong, but particularly when there’s the possibility that we’re setting ourselves up as some kind of apostle for the faith because it feeds the fuel of the sin of pride: “Look at what a great witness I am for Christ!” Pope Saint John Paul II once said, “There’s no such thing as love separated from truth,” but that doesn’t mean that the converse isn’t just as important: that there’s no such thing as truth separated from charity. You’re not that great an apostle if you don’t know when to keep your mouth shut. The true apostle is never a fanatic.
You are not to claim the title of Rabbi; you have but one Master, and you are all brethren alike. Nor are you to call any man on earth your father; you have but one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called teachers; you have one teacher, Christ (Matt. 23: 8-10 Knox).
As we go forth into the world to exercise our own small portion of Christ’s fatherhood over one another, our best meditation, I think, would be the words of today’s Psalm:
O lord, my heart is not proud, nor are my eyes haughty; I busy not myself with great things, nor with things too sublime for me. Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child. Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord, both now and forever (Psalm 131 RM3).
* Following the feast and postfestive period of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14th through 21st), the Greek Church actually labels these Sundays as “Sundays after the Holy Cross” and begins to number them accordingly, while the Ruthenian and Russian Churches continue to number them as "Sundays after Pentecost" (though in some older Ruthenian typicons the Greek custom is observed). The historical context of this custom was the Greek practice of marking the birthday of the Emperor Augustus on September 23rd, which they regarded as the first day of the Church year. It was not until the fall of the empire that the new year observance was moved to Sept. 1st throughout the Churches of the Byzantine Rite.
Galaction and Episteme were husband and wife respectively. They suffered torture and martyrdom under the Emperor Decius. At the time of their deaths, Galaction was thirty years old, his wife bearly sixteen.
Bishop Lakota was ordained in 1908 at Przemysl. He received his Doctorate in theology in Vienna in 1911, then served as professor of theology at the Ukrainian Catholic seminary at Przemysl beginning in 1913, eventually becoming Auxiliary Bishop of Przemysl. Arrested for his faith on June 9th, 1946, he was sentenced to ten years at Vorkuta, Russia, where he died in prison in 1950.
** The four Gospels are all read in their entirety in the Byzantine Churches, and the reading of each begins with a great feast. The Gospel of St. John begins with Pascha, and is read until Pentecost. The Gospel of St. Matthew begins with Pentecost, and is read until the Feast of the Holy Cross, after which the Gospel of St. Luke is read all the way through until the Great Fast; but, because the Divine Liturgy is offered only on Saturday and Sunday in the Great Fast, the left-over passages are read in the last six weeks of the Matthean and Lucan cycles. This is why the Byzantine Churches begin the reading of Luke’s Gospel on the Sunday after the Holy Cross no matter where they are in the cycle of "Sundays after Pentecost." The Epistles, on the other hand, are read continuously without any adjustment, creating a discrepancy between Epistle and Gospel. This year, there is a discrepancy of two weeks. In the Byzantine Churches, this is commonly called "the Lucan Jump." Thus, today, the Epistle sung is the one for the 22nd Sunday, and the Gospel the one ordinary sung on the 24th Sunday.