The Mandate and The Basics

The Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything. (John 14:25)

These are the words of our Lord Jesus, to the Apostles, at the Last Supper. He was explaining to them what would happen after He ascended into heaven. [Spanish]

That was the beginning of the Catholic Church. The Lord Jesus had taught the Apostles many things while He was on the earth. He would teach them other things from heaven. As He promised, after He ascended, He sent the Holy Spirit to guide His Church.

In our first reading at Sunday Mass, from the Acts of Apostles, we read St. Luke’s account of the first Church Council. The situation was this: The Apostles had gone out from Jerusalem to preach the Gospel. In the surrounding countries, both Jews and non-Jews came to believe.

circumcison knifeNow, some of the first non-Jewish Christians had heard–from somebody–that they were supposed to keep the Law of Moses. The uncircumcised non-Jewish men, who feared God but also feared pain, were not sure that they wanted to. Baptized into Christ, yes. But minor surgery in a particularly sensitive area? Really?

So the Apostles gathered back together again in Jerusalem to try to deal with this honest question. They prayed and debated. Then the Council composed a letter, to be read aloud to confused Gentile Christians in Syria.

As it turned out, the uncircumcised men had nothing to fear. It is not the will of God that adult men who seek Baptism also have to be circumcised. It is not necessary. The Lord Jesus shed all the blood that needed to be shed.

Confusion had arisen because: Someone had told the Gentile converts otherwise. As we heard the Apostles’ letter say, “Some of our number went out without any mandate from us and upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind.”

This is a crucial sentence. The Apostles condemned those who taught their own doctrines without any mandate from us.

To teach the true religion, the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ himself–to teach God’s religion—that requires a mandate.  No one can give himself authority to teach the Gospel or preside over the sacraments.

As the Lord Jesus explained, the Holy Spirit governs the Church. And He gives the mandate to teach and preside, through St. Peter and the Apostles, and their successors in office.

Kyle O'Connor

Now, a non-Catholic might say “Look here, popish brother. My mandate is this here Holy Bible.”  Fair enough. We Catholics love the Bible, too.

But we reply, “Dear Brother, if you please: Open the Bible; give the New Testament a thorough read. Lord Jesus never handed anyone a book. He never handed anybody a Bible and said, “This is your mandate. Set up shop for yourself.”  He never did that.

Christ chose His Apostles, consecrated them at the Last Supper, gave them the sacraments, and sent them on their mission. As the Apostles were performing their sacred mission, they wrote the New Testament. The Church came first, the written gospels second.

That said, the New Testament certainly remains our unfailing guide to the true doctrine which originated with Christ. Just like the New Testament would not exist, had not the Church written it, the Church cannot endure without constant, prayerful study of the New Testament. But without the living mission of the Church, the Bible is a dead letter. The New Testament is not an independent book. It is a family heirloom of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Maybe some will remember two seminarians we had here, back in the summers of 2013 and 2014. Excellent, inspiring young men. On Saturday, bishop will ordain them priests.

Kyle and Dan will become priests in a scandal-plagued Church. I did, too, sixteen years ago yesterday. Takes a certain kind of guts, to become a priest under these circumstances. Or a certain kind of faith. Or a certain kind of lunacy.

Dan MolochkoWe poor priests find ourselves caught between two poles. On the one hand, people who read widely know: the Catholic Church in the U.S. may not survive. The McCarrick Affair has destroyed what little trust we had in the hierarchy.

One the other hand, our bishops and pope basically carry on as if we were at Situation Normal. ‘McCarrick? What McCarrick? What cover-up? What catastrophic betrayal of trust? Who? Us?’

God never promised that any particular parish, or diocese, or even whole nation of dioceses, would survive forever. But He did endow his one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church with an indestructible center of gravity, which will survive until He comes again in glory.

The New Testament. Our Creed. Our sacraments. Our prayers. Our way of life, based on the Ten Commandments.

Back when I studied in the seminary, clinging to the basics of the faith was regarded as backwards, déclassé, retrograde. But I think time has proven the wisdom of clinging to the basics. For dear life.

Let’s cling. And march on.


8 thoughts on “The Mandate and The Basics

  1. I will be joyous in celebrating with Kyle his first Mass here at St Andrew’s next week. My husband, sister and two sons will sing in the choir and my eldest son will be an alter server. The Holy Spirit blesses the Church even when She is less worthy. “Where sin is abundant grace abounds the more.”

    The book “True Reformers” explains how the Holy Spirit has fixed the Church time and again. The path is never where we expect. The one who rises is often an odd saint. Yes, expecting a miracle may seem naive but this is the structure run by God himself. A miracle is performed every single Mass. I know at least five people I can think of cured from cancer, heart disease, lung diseases and bullet wounds. Not to mention the changes of hearts and souls. But they come along the Way, the name the Apostles first gave our Church. The Way is Jesus and His path, His Way includes the Cross.

  2. Wonderful!   Thank you and miss you a lot! ❤Sent via the Samsung Galaxy S8+

  3. Where is the laity’s desire to achieve a church possessing integrity? “There will be Mass in my parish church as long as I’m alive, so why should I make trouble?” Don’t you care if there’s a Catholic Church in the U.S. — possessing integrity — for your children and grandchildren? The way things are going, that looks unlikely.

  4. What can we do as lay people who care
    about what is happening in the church.
    I think laity would react if they knew how and what to do.

  5. Thank you Father Mark,For Showing us the pictures of the new priest’s, I read the C/V,About all three. Good read.

  6. Re this posting and the previous one (The College of Lying Cowards):
    I believe that the Catholic faith will survive always, because it is the true faith. The failings of humans in carrying out their duties as leaders of the church is heart-breaking. But God’s power is still supreme over all. If people desert their faith because of the human failings of others, then how deep was that faith? We look inside our own hearts and find failings. When we go to the Mass, we go to worship God, to confess our own failings, ask God’s forgiveness and receive strength to go on for another day. Do we neglect the Mass and God’s love because of human weakness? The Catholic Church asks much of us…it asks us to live a life that others may find “strange,” for lack of a better word. We choose to try to live that life because we love God and accept the teachings of the Holy Church. The world fears what it does not understand, and hates what it understands but rejects. Christians today are among the most persecuted religious groups in the world. I do not believe it is going to get better. Which is why we must be strong. We receive our strength through absolute faith. We do not receive spiritual strength through trying to please the world.
    My priest, Fr. Mark, and others like him, have had the courage to speak out openly about the problems of the church hierarchy. It would appear that the Pope and other leaders are trying, to some degree at least, to make changes. I am not in a position to judge the quality of those changes, but I trust Fr. Mark’s judgment about them.
    The scandals we deal with today occurred some years ago. We cannot undo what has happened. We pray that these sinful behaviors will not be tolerated in the future. God will judge those who offended…only He knows whether they have truly repented and asked for forgiveness.
    Prayer is a powerful weapon against evil. We must pray for personal strength and guidance, as we face these problems, and most also pray that the hearts of the hierarchy of the church will prove themselves true to God’s teaching. For those who are not true priests, but seek to serve only themselves, we must pray for their salvation even as we ask God’s protection against them and their actions.
    Is this a time for more letters to the Bishop? I do not know. For now, it seems to me, that possibly we are in a period of “waiting” — to see whether change will truly occur. That does not mean we “wait without watching.” We pray and watch and hope. But we never cease praying. We never cease to believe, to share our beliefs with others, to ask God’s guidance in all we do. If we allow the world to think that we, as Catholics, choose not to stand strong in our own faith, then how shall they believe?
    Fr. Mark wrote, “Back when I studied in the seminary, clinging to the basics of the faith was regarded as backwards, declasse, retrograde, But I think time has proven the wisdom of clinging to the basics. For dear life. Let’s cling. And march on.” Amen, Fr. Mark.

  7. Judy, the problems we are dealing with are primarily not the “failings” of individual priests. It is the coverups which are the main problems. And those are present day realities among the hierarchs!

  8. John, I understand your point. However, if the hierarchy had not “tolerated” the actions (“failings”) of those who repeatedly indulged in blatantly sinful actions, there would not have been need for a cover-up. I recognize that decisions on how to handle situations may be made, thinking it is the right way to handle them, even as it is not! Even so, what is done is done. We pray today that there will be no more cover-ups. I believe many are in doubt as to whether the hierarchy will continue to seek to do what is right. So we pray. And that prayer includes praying for forgiveness for our own failings,
    Judy R.

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