I came to a final point of faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 34. I was raised in a Christian and faithful home. My father is a Protestant pastor, my parents missionaries in Africa (formerly) and my entire background until after seminary was in Protestantism. I’ve told this story before so won’t repeat it again. I’ve been struggling recently (thus the silence on this page) with something.
When I first began to deeply study and absorb the Bible, I was struck by how different the Faith described by Jesus in the Gospels and the Apostles in the Epistles was from my own experience of Christianity. The way of life and belief espoused by Holy Scripture was nowhere close to what I had lived. That dichotomy only increased as I began to read the Church Fathers and study the ancient Church. I realized very quickly that the Faith and practice of the early Church was nothing like the modern lived experience of American Christianity.
So, I went looking for the Church. I wanted to know if there were any Christians left who held fast to the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). Someone asked me one time, “When will this end for you, where will you be happy?” My reply was, “When I find the faith and practice of the Apostolic Church, the Church that Jesus Christ founded.” That desire burns more deeply in my heart today than ever before.
Like most people who claim to be Christians, where we live was deeply affected by the so-called lockdowns during the so-called pandemic of Covid-19. I really don’t want to get too much into a discussion on this but what I will say is this. The modern Church (I’m painting with a broad brush here) is largely cowardly. Especially the American Catholic Church. The cowardice and cowering of our bishops to the oppressive conduct of state and federal governments is inexcusable.
The Church does not bow to the state. Period.
In fact, if we believe what our Lord Jesus said, all power and authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18-20), then the only authority that governs the Church is the authority of Christ the King. Not a president. Not a governor. Not a city council member. The Lord Jesus is the King and we bow to none but Him. For our Church leaders to bow to the state is a dereliction of their duties as shepherds of the Church of Christ. This was all done, of course, in the name of health and safety and “for the common good.” This is, of course, a nonsensical argument and only serves to illustrate my point. What could serve the common good more: running in fear from a virus or standing firm on our faith and proclaiming that the condition of our souls matters more than the condition of our bodies?
Our Church leaders are acting like they don’t believe in the resurrection. Think about this for a moment. The fear exhibited by our bishops and by the faithful (most of us anyway) has shown us where our true priorities lie and where our true belief is. If we believe in the resurrection and the promises of our Lord Jesus, then we would fear nothing. But, our reaction to this so-called pandemic has shown quite glaringly that the faith once for all delivered to the saints has been largely lost in the haze of the modern world. If you believe something, then your actions show that belief. What have our actions shown to the world what we believe?
This brings me back to my original statement that the modern lived experience of the Church today, for the most part, is entirely divorced from the faith and practice of our holy forebears. Let me bring this a little closer to home. Vatican II came about because the Catholic Church (or at least the loudest voices in the room) felt that we needed to modernize the faith to meet the conditions and situation of the modern man. The Pope at the time, John XXIII, famously said that we needed to “throw open the windows of the church and let the fresh air of the spirit blow through.” I’m not sure what that means but I think we can all see the outcome of this. Faith has largely been lost (at least in the Roman Catholic Church). Rather than the “fresh air of the spirit” blowing through the Church, the modern world with all its heretical beliefs and pagan practices has invaded and infected the Church. To be fair, this has been going on in one form or another since the beginning.
The problem is that the premise is wrong. The Church should never adapt to the modern world. I’m not talking about using vernacular language or using air conditioning or technology or any other silly thing I’ve heard people say. I’m talking about the beliefs and practice of those of us who call Jesus our Lord. To say that doctrine “develops” over time is flatly untrue. The Faith once for all delivered to the saints does not “develop.” The Faith may be explored more deeply and our experience of it peeled back layer and by layer; farther out and deeper in, as the saying goes. But there is no “development” of doctrine. Either it is what all Christians have believed for all times in all places or it is not.
The deposit of the Faith does not and has not changed since our Lord Jesus walked among us.
Let me give you a recent example. Pope Francis recently gave a statement that the Church cannot and will not endorse same sex “marriage.” That statement created quite an uproar apparently. The point is not the uproar the statement created. The point is this: why in the world would the Pope even need to make this statement? This statement is entirely unnecessary if the Church were actually being the Church. If the deposit of the Faith were being guarded and kept as it should be, this statement would never have to be made.
I heard an Orthodox priest recently say (paraphrased) that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). That means that the Church should be the same yesterday, today and forever. The Body takes after the Head. He went on to say that we cannot alter the Church Herself but rather, the Church alters us.
I wonder. Can we honestly say that is true today? Does the Body take after the Head? Have we allowed ourselves to be altered by the Church or have we altered the Church? It is not Christ who has changed. It is not the deposit of the Faith that has changed.
Maybe we are the problem, not the Church.
Pray, brothers and sisters, for me as I seek the face of our Lord in His Church. Pray that we would return to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Let us repent of our arrogance and love of the world. Repent and believe was the cry of the Apostles. Let it be, again, our cry.
Glory to Jesus Christ!
We live in a world that is deeply confused as to the meaning of love. Our society believes that love means whatever you want it to mean. People will say things like, “I love chocolate,” or “I love that show,” or “I love that song,” or something equally inane.
Or worse, our society is so confused that they will claim that men can romantically love other men or women can romantically love other men. “Love wins” is the slogan of the distorted and pagan view of marriage and sex. If you watch TV at all (at least in America), the LGBTQ whatever else agenda is being pushed so hard down our throats that it’s dizzying.
As a society, we have long ago ceased to be able to define, let alone understand, love.
Thankfully, for Christians, we have God’s Word and Tradition to tell us the meaning of love. Cardinal Levada has defined love for us in this way,
“The theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.” Paul tells us that love is the greatest of the theological virtues: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).”
St. Thomas Aquinas defined love and his definition is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is,
“To love is to will the good of the other.”
Selfless, not selfish. Love is about the good of others, what is best for them. Not what is best for you. This is one of the biggest problems in our society with this notion of love that is propagated by our culture, music, media etc. That problem is that you are the arbiter of love. You are the one who decides for yourself what love is. There is no objective standard upon which love can be measured against.
That is just simply not true.
As has already been stated, love has been defined for us. There is an objective standard. Our readings today help us.
Epistle: 1 John 3:13-18
Gospel: Luke 14:16-24
Let us consider our Epistle text first. The Apostle John tells us what love is. It’s ironic because he starts out by saying,
“Wonder not, brethren, if the world hate you.”
If we are honest with ourselves, we can look at the state of Christianity in the world today and say that we are, at least in the West, a weak and half-hearted group of Christians. We have compromised so much with the world and taken on so much of the identity of the world that the Church is hardly distinguishable from the world. How different we modern Christians are from our early forefathers in the faith. I am inspired and deeply repentant of the fact that my life looks so much like the world when my forefathers in the faith went singing to their execution and exile for the name of Jesus. So when the Apostle says, “Wonder not, brethren, if the world hate you,” we need to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves if the world hates us because we call all humankind to repentance (including ourselves) or if they love us because we keep silent and go along to get along.
The truth is our silence and cowardice are not love. Love is how we know, says the Apostle, if we have passed from death to life. If we love our brethren, we know that we have passed from death to life. If we love not, the Apostle tells us, we abide in death.
Read that again. Look at verse 14 of our Epistle text,
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not, abideth in death.”
In verse 16, the Apostle gives us our standard of love,
“In this we have know the charity (love) of God, because He hath laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
We know love because we have the supreme example of love. Jesus of Nazareth, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, took on flesh, lived a perfect and sinless life and was tortured and crucified and buried and rose again because He loved. He loved His creation (us) so much that He underwent an agony that we cannot fathom. And so the Apostle challenges us,
“My little children, let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth.”
Put your money where your mouth is. Put your faith to action.
We look at our gospel text and think that these two texts have nothing to do with one another. Consider the great supper invitation talked about. This “certain man” is clearly wealthy in the story. He has the ability to put on a great supper and to invite many. He has servants to get the word out. Notice that none of the people invited did anything to get invited. It was merely the generosity of the wealthy man. It was an expression of pure love.
And his invited guests make excuses for not coming. Sounds kind of like us in many ways. In His great mercy and love for humankind, our Creator has invited us the great banquet of His love in relationship with Him. In the practice of the Church, we find this weekly (sometimes daily) at the Eucharist where we are invited to literally take the person of Christ into our own bodies and experience oneness with Him. That oneness makes demands of us. We are to obey. We are to give love for love received.
But we make excuses. We want the things of the world more than we want Christ, just like the invited guests. So, the wealthy man tells his servant to go out and find the scum of society, the outcast, those who cannot possibly pay him back and invite them. And the Lord says to his servant,
“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
A royal supper demands a full house. We are invited. Through the propitiating death of Christ, we are now invited to the great marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9). But we must accept that invitation. We must return love for love.
We are offered a sumptuous feast of the never-ending joy of the fellowship of the Holy Trinity. Yet we settle for being popular and social agendas and environmental causes and so-called equality and our social media feeds. Oh, brothers and sisters, do you see?
The offer is life. The offer is the banquet of fellowship and love found only in the person of our Lord Jesus, the embrace of the Father and the comfort of the Spirit. How dare we make excuses and turn to the cheap thrills of the world when eternity awaits us in the embrace of all that is good and holy?
Let us run from the temporary thrills of the world and embrace the love of our Savior. Let us welcome the hatred of the world so that we may know the love of God!
Glory to Jesus Christ!