Speak well of Christ’s Body
The key to unlock shut up hearts, to save souls, is Jesus Christ. Christ and his Church are one. When we speak badly about the Church, behave badly, we alienate people from Christ. Let us then refuse to speak badly of Christ’s mystical body!
Gospel Reading: Luke 11:47-54
This homily was preached to the student brothers during compline. Listen here or read below:
Well, we’ve had a lot of woe this week. Woe to you Pharisees, you wash the outside but inside you are filled with extortion and wickedness. Woe to you Pharisees you neglect love and justice in favour of tithing and taking the seats of honour. Now Jesus turns his attention to the scribes and if they think they’re any better they’ve got another thing coming. Woe to you who build the tombs of the prophets, the men your ancestors killed! In this way you both witness what your ancestors did and approve it; they did the killing, you do the building. Woe to you lawyers who have taken away the key of knowledge! You have not gone in yourselves, and have prevented others going in who wanted to.
Going in where? The kingdom of God. That’s how serious this is. Bickering, murmuring, lack of obedience it prevents people from entering the kingdom of God. Jesus says all these things after having been invited to dinner by one of the Pharisees. Jesus is accepting the hospitality of people who have rebuked the apostles, rebuked him for healing, and are now murmuring that he did not wash his hands before dinner. Moan, Moan, Moan. Telling him off for doing the right thing, and now moaning at him for not doing what they think he should be doing. Where is their love?
Do we not see this in our own time? Rebuking the successors of the apostles, rebuking those who are trying to heal divisions between Catholics and other Christians, between Catholics and other religions. Murmuring, to put it mildly, at the Vicar of Christ for not doing what they think he should be doing in the legitimate exercise of his authority. Looking for things to catch people out. There are those who would say: our Pope is a heretic who worships idols, our masses are sacrilegious and soul-destroying, we have to resist the Vicar of Christ, return to a golden age, and did we mention you have to join the Church in order to be saved, because the papacy is essential? Is this credible? Is this evangelically compelling?
Enough! Says Jesus. Now the Wisdom of the Lord will reveal the consequences of their attitudes and murmurings, and we would do well to take this as a warning to us. A warning against cynicism and negativity, a warning against backbiting, bickering and murmuring, a warning against exalting our individual reason over the mind of the Church. The Lord reveals the consequences of loading burdens on people doing nothing to help them carry that burden, of extorting the poor by neglecting love and justice, (let’s not forget Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum says ‘after your needs and station have been met, everything else you own rightfully belongs to the poor’ how many of us can say we have taken this teaching to heart?), prizing building monuments over obedience to Christ. Who is the ultimate self-disclosure of God. The Face of the Father. When they do so, the Pharisees and the Scribes, think they are being obedient to the Torah, they think they are helping bring people into right relationship with the Lord, but in fact they alienate people from the means of their salvation. The Scribes and Pharisees far from being people too religious, are not religious enough. They are not Christified enough.
The key to unlock shut up hearts, to save souls, is Jesus Christ. Christ and his Church are one. When we speak badly about the Church, behave badly, we alienate people from Christ. The greatest apologists in our time for leaving the Church or not becoming a member of the Church are those who speak badly about her.
What’s more is some of those who speak badly about the Church are experts in theology, experts in the Law. Whilst the scribes, being experts in the Law, should recognise Jesus is the Christ, so likewise we should recognise how radically Christ associates himself with his mystical body the Church. When we alienate people from the Church by our speaking down about her, we run away with the key of knowledge. The revelation of God: Jesus Christ. It is the Church who interprets the scriptures and unlocks the mysteries of the divine. Jesus is the Key of David, as spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah. These lawyers obscure the face of the father and thereby people exchange truth about God for lie. Their actions, the things they do which causes Jesus to rebuke them, their attitude, not only prevents themselves from entering the kingdom but prevents others from entering the Kingdom too.
So then let us reject cynicism and talking down about the people of God. Let us reject the cheap jokes and comments we make at the expense of others, the attitude of sizing up friend or foe, trying to catch people out. If we do not forgo gossip and calumny in favour of charity, we not only refuse to enter the kingdom ourselves but prevent others from doing to too and we will be liable for that.
So then let us adopt a spirit of docility, let us speak well of others, let us take the benign interpretation, let us reveal the merciful, just, and loving face of the Father by committing ourselves to perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Let us refuse to obscure the merciful face of the Father! Let us refuse to run away with the key of knowledge! Let us refuse to make God harder to see and the faith harder to live!
The picture is a Mosaic from the basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna. Photo by Lawrence Lew OP.