3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time 2012

In the Gospel today, we hear of the call of some of the Apostles. Jesus called Simon and Andrew, James and John and they left what they were doing and they follow Jesus Christ. These four as well as the other Apostles became the foundation upon which the Catholic Church is built: that is what we refer to when we say in the Creed each Sunday that our Church is Apostolic—the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ upon Peter and the Apostles. The Church that Christ founded comes down to us today through Apostolic succession: through an unbroken chain of successors to the Apostles (what we today call bishops).

The word “Apostle” means “one who is sent” and the Apostles were sent by Jesus Christ: they were sent to teach all nations all the Jesus had taught them. Jesus did not hand the Apostles a book—He gave them authority to teach and preach in His name. He told the Apostles: “who hears you, hears me.” That is no little amount of authority, because Jesus Christ is God. He gave the Apostles the authority to speak in His name because they were entrusted with the most important message ever delivered in the history of the world: the message of the Gospel. Jesus Christ entrusted the Good News that through His death and Resurrection sin and death are powerless. The Apostles were sent to all the nations, they were to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth, so that people could know Jesus Christ and through Him have access to the Father and to Heaven. The message that the Apostles were sent to preach was so important that Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide the Church into all truth. Our Lord promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church. The Holy Spirit protects the Church, the Holy Spirit guides the Church—so that the message of the teachings of Jesus Christ can be correctly understood and faithfully followed.

We believe that the Church was founded by Jesus Christ, we believe the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, in the Creed we also say that we believe the Church is holy. We can say that the Church is holy because it is the mystical body of Christ and Christ is holy. The Church is holy by virtue of its union with Christ. The Church is holy and at the same time it is full of sinners. The Church continually calls us sinners to repentance, and it offers us the means to become holy (through the Sacraments).

Those opposed to the Church like to point to the scandals in the Church’s history as an argument against what we believe about the Church. There have been bad things in the Church’s two-thousand year history, and those things are certainly regrettable, and not to be lightly dismissed (although they are rarely as bad as many like to make them out to be). Scandal in the Church is a reminder that the members of the Church continue to stand in constant need of conversion. One important thing to remember is that those negative instances that are pointed to in Church history were always caused by people in the Church who have failed to practice what the Church actually teaches. The Church has never taught error, even though some of the people and ministers in the Church have acted in a less than Christian way.

When the Catholic Faith is authentically put into practice great things result. The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world. The Catholic Church has established hospitals, schools and universities, and has organizations and programs that help people all over the world. The Catholic Church has commissioned and preserved some of the greatest works of art in history. The Catholic Church compiled the New Testament and throughout the centuries has made copies of Bible as well as other great literary works so that people could have access to them. The Church and members of the Church have made great contributions to science: including inventing the scientific method. We have reason to be proud to belong to such a great institution.

Today’s Gospel is a good reminder to take time to thank Our Lord for establishing His Church upon the Apostles so that we can have access to His Teaching and to His grace. Let us also take today’s Gospel as a reminder to pray for our bishops the successors to the Apostles as they continue to lead our Church. They stand in special need of our prayers as they lead the Church in these difficult times. Two days ago, the department of health and human services passed a mandate which will require Catholic institutions to provide their employees with insurance which will cover sterilizations and contraception—some of which are abortafacients—which, of course, are all against the Church’s Teaching. Many Bishops in our country, including the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, have said that this is a direct attack on religious liberty in this country and that they are committed to fighting this law. The department of health and human services have given the Catholic institutions one year to comply. I say all of this not to cause alarm, but simply so that you are aware of this threat to religious liberty. You can see the Bishop’s statement on their website: USCCB.org—it’s only a minute and a half long, but it sums up the issue quite clearly. Fr. John has also said that he is going to bring in a quest speaker to address the parish at large on this important topic: be sure to watch the bulletin for information. Please pray for our country, for our government leaders and especially please pray for our bishops that they will have the wisdom and the courage to faithfully guide the Church in our day.