33rd Sunday of the year: 15 November 2009

 

Daily Mass Readings:

First Reading:  Daniel 12:1-3

‘At that time Michael will stand up, the great prince who mounts guard over your people. There is going to be a time of great distress, unparalleled since nations first came into existence. When that time comes, your own people will be spared, all those whose names are found written in the Book. Of those who lie sleeping in the dust of the earth many will awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace. The learned will shine as brightly as the vault of heaven, and those who have instructed many in virtue, as bright as stars for all eternity.’
Second Reading: Hebrews 10:14,18
All the priests stand at their duties every day, offering over and over again the same sacrifices which are quite incapable of taking sins away. He, on the other hand, has offered one single sacrifice for sins, and then taken his place forever, at the right hand of God, where he is now waiting until his enemies are made into a footstool for him. By virtue of that one single offering, he has achieved the eternal perfection of all whom he is sanctifying. When all sins have been forgiven, there can be no more sin offerings.
The Gospel: Mark 13:24-32
Jesus said, ‘In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.
‘Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that he is near, at the very gates. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
‘But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.’
Reflection:

The other day I was watching the Australian Christian Channel and the Senior Pastor of what possibly is the largest church in Australia (reportedly 19000 people per weekend go through their centers) was preaching on the ills and the signs of a Backslider. After a few minutes it was becoming obvious to me that anybody who doubted this Pastors take on Theology (Word of Faith), or questioned the vision of his leadership team was suffering from this very serious malady.  As time went on I began to be overcome by a severe case of deja vu, this was all too familiar to me and is a behavioral practice I have often witnessed within the Autocephalous and Old Catholic Church Movements. Although we are more likely to hear terms like vagante, hetrodox, invalid, illicit or heretic rather than backslider.

 

While these terms can be extremely painful when they are applied to us, our Parish or Jurisdiction, do they in the greater scheme of things really matter much at all?  As the title of this article implies I have come to the general conclusion that to some degree we are all somebody else’s backslider, vagante or heretic and not much we do or say is going to change that fact. Perhaps the most contentious attack that can be leveled at a Catholic is that their ministry is invalid, this is because as Catholics we understand the importance of sharing valid Sacraments with all who seek them from us in the name of Our Blessed Lord. But what is it that really defines validity, can it actually be defined or is validity like beauty in the eye of the beholder?

 

Theologian Hans Kung writes in On Being Christian: ” The important thing about a Petrine ministry or any other ministry of leadership is not the historical evidence of a line of succession…………… If such a person did not carry out this Petrine mission, did not fulfill his appointed task, did not give testimony or perform his service, what would be the use of the entire Apostolic Succession to him or the Church? Thus the important thing is not the claim, the right, the chain of succession, as such but the accomplishment, the exercise, the action, the service itself concretely realized.

 

A case in point I know two Bishops one quite young whose transition from Deacon, Priest to Bishop was very fast to say the least. The other a veteran with over 30 years in the Episcopacy. The elder man took a dislike to the younger after he was photographed wearing a Cope over his Chasuble and wrote some severe comments about the other for months via the Net. He also demanded complete obedience by all and sundry. While the younger Bishop, less theologically and liturgically trained weekly led groups into the streets feeding the homeless, setting up services in Nursing homes for the elderly and working in the Prison system. Who was more following Our Lord’s example, the judge or the servant?

 

In considering validity I am also reminded of the Gospel of St. Matthew 3:9-10, where John the Baptist referring to the Pharisees says: ” Don’t just say, we’re safe we’re the descendants of Abraham. That proves nothing. God can change these stones here into children of Abraham. Even now the axe of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever your roots. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”

 

The Reformed Catholic Church is well known for its real ministries and its acts of servitude. So it does not really matter what others may say and think about us, our validity is confirmed by our acts of service, visiting those in need at inopportune times, in the snow, rain or the middle of the night when others are unwilling to do so. Our Blessed Lord only gave one criteria to judge ministries validity: “By their fruits you shall know them.”

+Ian


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