Monday, April 23, 2012
Feast of the Good Shepherd
EPISTLE I. Peter 2. 21-25 Lesson from the first Epistle of Blessed Peter the Apostle. [St. Peter, Head and Pastor of the Church of Christ, tells us in his Epistle that Jesus is the Shepherd of our souls, which were as sheep going astray.] Dearly beloved, Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow His steps who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. Who when He was reviled, did not revile: when He suffered, He threatened not, but delivered Himself to him that judged Him unjustly: who His own self bore our sins in His body upon the tree: that we, being dead to sins, should live to justice; by whose stripes you were healed. For you were as sheep going astray: but you are now converted to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
GRADUAL Luke 24. 35
V.: Cognoverunt discipuli Dominum Jesum in fractione panis. Alleluia. V.: Ego sum pastor bonus: et cognosco oves meas, et cognoscunt me meae. Alleluia.
V.: The disciples knew the Lord Jesus in the breaking of bread. Alleluia. V.: (John 10. 14). I am the good Shepherd: and I know My sheep, and Mine know Me. Alleluia.
GOSPEL John 10. 11-16 † Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. John. [Parable of the Good Shepherd; Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who protects His sheep from the attacks of the wolf and gives His life for them.] At that time Jesus said to the Pharisees: I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep and flieth: and the wolf catcheth and scattereth the sheep: and the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling, and he hath no care for the sheep. I am the good Shepherd: and I know Mine, and Mine know Me, as the Father knoweth Me, and I know the Father: and I lay down My life for My sheep. And other sheep I have that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.
Reflecting on the thought.....
Jesus is indeed the Good Shepherd. Just two Sundays ago we celebrated and co-memorated the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Passion. Jesus being the Good Shepherd laid His life down in order to purchase for us the rewards of Eternal Life. In the Mass today we are reminded of this as Jesus affirms that He is the Good Shepard. We were like sheep that had gone astray because of the unpayable price of sin. Jesus paid that price for us so that we may be converted to Him the Shepherd and the Bishop of our soul as we see in the Epistle. When looking at the Gospel what is important here is to notice that Jesus in addition to further affirming that He is the Good Shepherd says: there must only be one flock and one shepherd. This cannot mean many denominations and many pastors, all teaching different doctrines. Jesus however doesn't just stop there; He affirms that those outside the fold must be brought into the ONE fold, which is the Church. He does not say that they can persist in heresy and schism and be ok; but that they must be brought back into the ONE FOLD. The ONE FOLD is none other than the ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC, APOSTOLIC Church. We must put our faith in the Good Shepherd, that He will always be with us, which He is; and that he will guide us, which He does through Holy Mother Church. We must flock to Him in all the sacraments; wherein He is.
What we can learn from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.....
Matt. 12:25; Mark 3:25; Luke 11:17 - Jesus says a kingdom divided against itself is laid waste and will not stand. This describes Protestantism and the many thousands of denominations that continue to multiply each year.
Matt. 16:18 Jesus promises the gates of Hades would never prevail against the Church. This requires that the Church teach infallibly. If the Church did not have the gift of infallibility, the gates of Hades and error would prevail. Also, since the Catholic Church was the only Church that existed up until the Reformation, those who follow the Protestant reformers call Christ a liar by saying that Hades did prevail. No matter how sinful its members conduct themselves, Jesus promised that the gates of death will never prevail against the Church. 18:18 - Jesus uses the word "ecclesia" only twice in the New Testament Scriptures, which demonstrates that Jesus intended a visible, unified, hierarchical, and authoritative Church.
Eph. 5:30; Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 6:15 - we, as Christians, are one visible body in Christ, not many bodies, many denominations.
John 17:11,21,23 - Jesus prays that His followers may be perfectly one as He is one with the Father. Jesus' oneness with the Father is perfect. It can never be less. Thus, the oneness Jesus prays for cannot mean the varied divisions of Christianity that have resulted since the Protestant reformation. There is perfect oneness only in the Catholic Church.
Col. 1:18 - Christ is the Head of the one body, the Church. He is not the Head of many bodies or many sects. 1 Cor. 1:10- Paul prays for no dissensions and disagreements among Christians, being of the same mind and the same judgment. How can Protestant pastors say that they are all of the same mind and the same judgment on matters of faith and morals?
Rom. 15:5 - Paul says that we as Christians must live in harmony with one another. But this can only happen if there is one Church with one body of faith. This can only happen by the charity of the Holy Spirit who dwells within the Church. Rom. 16:17 - Paul warns us to avoid those who create dissensions and difficulties. This includes those who break away from the Church and create one denomination after another. We need to avoid their teaching, and bring them back into the one fold of Christ.
1 Tim. 6:4 - Paul warns about those who seek controversy and disputes about words. There must be a universal authority to appeal to who can trace its authority back to Christ.
2 Tim. 2:14 - do not dispute about words which only ruin the hearers. Two-thousand years of doctrinal unity is a sign of Christ's Church. 2 Tim. 4:3 - this is a warning on following our own desires and not the teachings of God. It is not a cafeteria where we pick and choose. We must humble ourselves and accept all of Christ's teachings which He gives us through His Church.
Rev. 7:9 - the heavenly kingdom is filled with those from every nation and from all tribes, peoples and tongues. This is "catholic," which means universal.
1 Peter 3:8 - Peter charges us to have unity of spirit. This is impossible unless there is a central teaching authority given to us by God.
Eph. 4:11 - the Church is hierarchical and includes apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers, all charged to build up the Church. The Church is not an invisible entity with an invisible foundation. Eph. 4:3-5 - we are of one body, one Spirit, one faith and one baptism. This requires doctrinal unity, not 30,000 different denominations
Luke 10:16 - whoever hears you, hears me. Whoever rejects you, rejects me. Jesus is very clear that the bishops of the Church speak with Christ's infallible authority
Sacred Tradition/ Church Fathers
"See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Christ Jesus does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles. Do ye also reverence the deacons, as those that carry out the appointment of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrneans, 8:2 (c. A.D. 110).
”Whence you ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if any one be not with the bishop, that he is not in the Church, and that those flatter themselves in vain who creep in, not having peace with God's priests, and think that they communicate secretly with some; while the Church, which is Catholic and one, is not cut nor divided, but is indeed connected and bound together by the cement of priests who cohere with one another.” Cyprian, To Florentius, Epistle 66/67 (A.D. 254).
"[T]he Article, In one Holy Catholic Church,' on which, though one might say many things, we will speak but briefly. It is called Catholic then because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to come to men's knowledge, concerning things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly… for this cause the Faith has securely delivered to thee now the Article, And in one Holy Catholic Church;' that thou mayest avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which thou wast regenerated. And if ever thou art sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord's House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God.” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 18:23,26 (A.D. 350).
“We must hold to the Christian religion and to communication in her Church, which is Catholic and which is called Catholic not only by her own members but even by all her enemies. For when heretics or the adherents of schisms talk about her, not among themselves but with strangers, willy-nilly they call her nothing else but Catholic. For they will not be understood unless they distinguish her by this name which the whole world employs in her regard.” Augustine, The True Religion, 7:12 (A.D. 390).
“Inasmuch, I repeat, as this is the case, we believe also in the Holy Church, [intending thereby] assuredly the Catholic. For both heretics and schismatics style their congregations churches. But heretics, in holding false opinions regarding God, do injury to the faith itself; while schismatics, on the other hand, in wicked separations break off from brotherly charity, although they may believe just what we believe. Wherefore neither do the heretics belong to the Church catholic, which loves God; nor do the schismatics form a part of the same.” Augustine, On Faith and Creed, 10:21 (A.D. 393).
"For in the Catholic Church, not to speak of the purest wisdom, to the knowledge of which a few spiritual, men attain in this life…--not to speak of this wisdom, which you do not believe to be in the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations…so does her authority…the succession of priests…[a]nd so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church…Now if the truth is so clearly proved as to leave no possibility of doubt, it must be set before all the things that keep me in the Catholic Church…For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church…for it was through the Catholics that I got my faith in it; and so, whatever you bring from the gospel will no longer have any weight with me. Wherefore, if no clear proof of the apostleship of Manichaeus is found in the gospel, I will believe the Catholics rather than you." Augustine, Against the Epistle of Manichaeus, 4:5,5:6 (A.D 397).
"I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical depravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or anyone else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they arise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church…Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation" Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith, 2:4,5 (A.D. 434).
“The Church, ordained by the Lord and established by His Apostles, is one for all; but the frantic folly of discordant sects has severed them from her. And it is obvious that these dissensions concerning the faith result from a distorted mind, which twists the words of Scripture into conformity with its opinion, instead of adjusting that opinion to the words of Scripture. And thus, amid the clash of mutually destructive errors, the Church stands revealed not only by her own teaching, but by that of her rivals. They are ranged, all of them, against her; and the very fact that she stands single and alone is her sufficient answer to their godless delusions. The hosts of heresy assemble themselves against her; each of them can defeat all the others, but not one can win a victory for itself. The only victory is the triumph which the Church celebrates over them all.” Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 7:4 (A.D. 359).
"See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid." Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyraens, 8 (c. A.D. 110).
“Those, therefore, who desert the preaching of the Church, call in question the knowledge of the holy presbyters…It behooves us, therefore, to avoid their doctrines, and to take careful heed lest we suffer any injury from them; but to flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord's Scriptures. For the Church has been planted as a garden (paradisus) in this world; therefore says the Spirit of God, 'Thou mayest freely eat from every tree of the garden,' that is, Eat ye from every Scripture of the Lord; but ye shall not eat with an uplifted mind, nor touch any heretical discord." Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5:20 (A.D. 180).
To sum up all in one word--what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible." Letter to Diognetus, 6:1 (A.D. 200).
"You may learn, if you will, the crowning wisdom of the all-holy Shepherd and Instructor, of the omnipotent and paternal Word, when He figuratively represents Himself as the Shepherd of the sheep…Such are the promises of the good Shepherd. Feed us, the children, as sheep. Yea, Master, fill us with righteousness, Thine own pasture; yea, O Instructor, feed us on Thy holy mountain the Church, which towers aloft, which is above the clouds, which touches heaven." Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, I:9 (A.D. 202).
"We are not to give heed to those who say, Behold here is Christ, but show him not in the Church, which is filled with brightness from the East even unto the West; which is filled with true light; is the 'pillar and ground of truth'; in which, as a whole, is the whole advent of the Son of Man, who saith to all men throughout the universe, 'Behold, I am with you all the days of life even unto the consumption of the world.'" Origen, Commentary on Matthew, Tract 30 (A.D. 244).
"The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother. If any one could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then he also may escape who shall be outside of the Church. The Lord warns, saying, 'He who is not with me is against me, and he who gathereth not with me scattereth.' Cyprian, On Unity, 6 (A.D. 251). Jesus Christ, The Good Shepherd: Save us! St. Michael, Defend us!