Acts 9:31, 1 John 3:18
The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the holy Spirit it grew in numbers.
Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.
The church is at peace, according to the first reading. But yet they took Paul out of town because there were those who were trying to kill him. That does not sound much like peace to me. So, what is happening? I think their reality was that the church was experiencing the peace of the Holy Spirit, while society around the church – namely the Jewish community in Jerusalem was… apoplectic about these strange Christians.
I think this is instructive for us today for a couple of different reasons. First of all, we are always going to find – or should always find ourselves at odds with the secular culture, even if that culture seems to be religious. Because the Jews in Jerusalem were religious.
But in our culture today there is a cultural pseudo-religion that is causing a huge problem for people who want to be faithful. You can name that by any number of names that you want, and I have heard various descriptions of this as a problem and all of them have a point to make. There are multiple ways in which our society is attacking the church. I have not the time today to go into any detail on what I see as these cultural pseudo-religions.
I do however I want to focus on something that I believe is a very serious problem. That has to do with the issue of us not having peace within the church as they lived it in those early days of the church under the intimate guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is my contention that we have lost this peace of the Holy Spirit in the modern church because we have allowed too many factions to have influence in the thoughts of so many Catholics.
The biggest problem is that these factions actually began and grew in the church starting over five hundred years ago with the Protestant revolution. (I have begun calling it a Protestant revolution instead of the Protestant reformation because of what a number of people I have learned to trust have been writing in the last few years.) Furthermore, I contend that our country has been dominated in its formation by this Protestant revolution in its thoughts and government. There are people who disagree with me on this.
There have been a number of efforts to bring into the Catholic Church thoughts from this Protestant revolution. Most dangerous and notable come from the rebelliousness of the church in Germany at this time. If you have not been following any of it, it is a real tragedy. And I am afraid that the church is going to go into a serious schism, or even a break such as a new revolution, similar to what it faced in the Protestant revolution.
The second comes from the rebelliousness of the church in the United States. Almost all of this rebelliousness surrounds the question of sexual ethics and abortion. This is also one of the driving forces – ONE of the driving forces – with the church in Germany.
I believe we are heading for a critical time for people who want to follow faithfully what the church teaches. It is not time for us to be anything short of vigilant. There are objective truths, immutable truths, truths that cannot be ignored that people are trying to twist to say something that they have never been intended to say.
I wish there were time in a Sunday homily that I could speak clearly about the issues that are distorting these truths that the church believes and declares have come from God. I also know that if I went into great detail on some of them there would probably be people so upset that… the Archbishop would probably be called.
I can make a statement in an overarching way about the dignity of each human person, from the time of conception to the time of natural death, from the genetic way they are made, to talk about the integrity and purpose of love, human love. Many of these are the focus of the battle both with our secular culture and the battle within the church.
Dr. Ralph Martin has written a new version of the book he first wrote in the nineteen seventies. In it he talks about the crisis of truth. And there is a genuine crisis of truth in our society, and in our church.
I do not know if we are at such a critical juncture in the church that we are running the risk of failure to carry out properly the mission of Christ to bring the world into the kingdom of his Father. But I am convinced that we, right now, are not in the kind of peace of the Holy Spirit that the early church with St. Paul and the apostles experienced.
That is why I quoted that short line from the opening of the letter from St. John at the beginning. We need to love in deed and truth. We dare not just come to church and not bring what we know into a world that has become so twisted by re-definitions of words that they make evil good and good evil. There are objective truths, and they exist in the love of Christ, and the call to holiness that he has given us.
Anything short of that call to holiness is a denial of the grace God has given us. Anything short of that call to holiness is the surest way to destroy our society. But, thanks be to God’s promise, no matter how hard we try WE will not be able to destroy his church. In the end, the peace of the Holy Spirit will reign in the church. Even if there are times when we do not know that peace.
St. Joseph, defender of the church, and terror of demons, pray for us. Amen.