“Apostolic,” Leaven, Synod Aftermath

We keep the feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude Thaddeus. Saints Simon and Jude ventured into what is now Iran. They taught the Zoroastrians about Christ. And about the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

One, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. “Apostolic” means three things at once:

El Greco St. Jude
El Greco St. Jude

1. We believe that Jesus Himself founded our Church by choosing the Twelve Apostles.

2. We believe that the Holy Spirit infallibly guides the Church to keep and hand on the original teaching that Jesus gave the Apostles.

We have a New Testament, the 27 documents we read over and over, precisely because of this work of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles, and men the apostles knew, wrote the New Testament.

That is, God wrote the New Testament, through the authorship of some of the original members of our Church.

3. We believe that the ministry of the apostles continues to this day, and will continue until the end of time, because the apostles’ successors in office continue to exercise the same ministry. The Pope and bishops, assisted by priests and deacons, continue the work of the original Apostles.

In other words: Baptism into Christ, Confirmation, the ministry of Jesus’ Body and Blood at the holy altar, the power to forgive confessed sins: none of these are abstract things. They involve particular people—divine gifts being bestowed on particular people. The Apostles and their successors form the trunk and branches of our Catholic family tree. As Pope Francis put it: “a Christian without the Church is incomprehensible.”

Thank you, Lord, for making us a part of this family that hopes for eternal life!

Here’s a word about the parable of the leaven, which we read at Holy Mass yesterday:

The Kingdom of God is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened. (Luke 13:21)

The mustard seed growing into a big tree: visible. But the leaven that gets worked through the dough, starting a hidden chemical process: invisible—at least until the end of the process, when the bread comes out of the oven.

Unleavened bread can be good, no doubt. Who doesn’t like Middle-Eastern food? But when you’re really hungry… When the house gets filled with the aroma of bread baking in the oven… I mean, yeah.

But the yeast of the kingdom lies hidden until the end of the process. Inside us: the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the mildness, mercifulness, and zeal of the Beatitudes, the endurance of faith, the sweetness of hope for the fulfillment of all things—helping other souls by our trying to give good example: That will make the whole house of God smell good.

Meanwhile, things have gotten genuinely fun in the world of Synod-of-Bishops aftermath.

My man Ross Douthat publicly scolded. The bar scene from “Good Will Hunting” invoked.*

Meanwhile, just came across a letter to the Synod Fathers (other than the one I signed), which I sure wish I had had the chance to sign!

*Warning: A couple bad words.

St. Jude vs. the Funhouse Mirror

El Greco St. Jude
Let us imagine ourselves to be Jewish converts to Christianity, living at the time of the Apostles. We find ourselves confronted with a difficult question.

The ancient law of our forefathers demanded a life of rigorous honesty, piety, justice, and self-discipline.

In fact, the Law of Moses demanded such intense religion and morality that generation after generation of Jews found it impossible to comply with the Law.

Then the long-expected Messiah came–and it was the God of Moses Himself, made man. He offered the perfect sacrifice which atones for all the countless sins of the past, and He mercifully reconciles us with the Creator—in spite of our hopeless unworthiness. Our religion now follows Christ Himself; He has established the definitive covenant.

But: Christ does not immediately transport us to heaven and eternal life. His Church baptizes us into His mystery, but we still live here on earth, confronted with the same temptations and evil that we faced before Christ came.

Here, then, we find the difficult question: What kind of behavior does God expect of us now?

He came to save those who were not able to follow the moral law which He had previously laid down. His Precious Blood washes away all sin. No human being could ever commit a sin which God will not forgive. This is gospel truth.

Does this mean we can do whatever we want? Can I now have my cake and eat it, too? Can I act immorally, indulge myself, play fast and loose? God will forgive, so does it matter?

This would be the distorted, funhouse-mirror image of the Gospel. Can we be surprised that, in certain corners of the ancient world, a lot of new Christians went ahead and embraced it?

St. Jude dedicated his apostolate to combating this error. Being redeemed by Christ and having our sins forgiven calls us to a higher moral standard than the Ten Commandments, not a lower one.

Christ did not reveal an indulgent God Who doesn’t care about our sins. Rather, He revealed God’s zealous love. We meet this love not with selfishness, but with selfless love in return. God patiently forgives. We love Him back not by continuing to try His patience, but by being patient and forgiving ourselves.

The heretics taught that Christ’s cross meant that we could forget about the Law. Christ’s cross does mean that we can forget about the Law, like someone walking on the sidewalk can forget about the speed limit.

Going 85 miles an hour doesn’t stop being dangerous and illegal. Neither does impiety, profanity, malice, lust, greed, sloth, vengeful anger, or envy. They all still violate God’s law, and are punishable with a kind of justice that we definitely do not want to have to face.

But if we live for God, we may find ourselves distracted from deadly sins by things like praying and taking care of our neighbors.