Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bonds of Unity

My dear friend, the Apostolic Nuncio in Indonesia, shared with me the link to the homily he preached for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul: If you don't happen to read Indonesian... the English translation is provided below on the same page in the commentary. I recommend the whole homily for your edification but I'd like to quote at length from what he says, citing the Catechism, about the three concrete bonds which hold us together in the love of Christ in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church:

“… it is very important for every member of the faithful and every Christian community to be in full communion with the Pope. Let us be clear: this communion is not simply a feeling of sympathy for the Pope, nor is it an intellectual interest in what he says, nor is it reduced to some acts of outward enthusiasm towards him. We must be linked to the Pope by objective, visible, concrete bonds, the same bonds by which we are united in the Church. 

…“What are the bonds of unity?” asks the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And it answers: “Above all, charity ‘binds everything together in perfect harmony’. But the unity of the pilgrim Church is also assured by visible bonds of communion: profession of one faith received from the Apostles; common celebration of divine worship, especially of the Sacraments; apostolic succession through the sacrament of Holy Orders, maintaining the fraternal concord of God’s family” (CCC 815). 

… a) The Bond of Faith. Peter and his successors in the Church continue to proclaim: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”, a claim which is at the very heart of our Christian faith. The first bond that we must have with the Pope is the profession of faith, through attention, knowledge and adherence to his teachings. The Pope’s voice is not just one more voice among others, like the opinions of theologians or even of individual bishops, but is decisive for evaluating the doctrines taught and preached in the Church and the opinions and theories current in society. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “the task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him” (CCC 100). And again: “The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for” (CCC 2034). 

… b) The Bond of the Liturgy. The liturgy, which has its summit in the celebration of the Sacraments and especially of the Eucharist, is the prayer of the whole Church; the prayer of the one Church formed by the Saints, by the dead in Christ and by ourselves; the prayer of the one Church spread throughout the world and led by the Pope and the Bishops. Therefore, in the Eucharistic prayer of every Mass we commemorate the Virgin Mary and the Saints, the Pope and the bishops, as well as the whole Church spread throughout the world. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Since he has the ministry of Peter in the Church, the Pope is associated with every celebration of the Eucharist, wherein he is named as the sign and servant of the unity of the universal Church” (CCC 1369). 

How often the Holy Father Benedict XVI reminds us that we have to celebrate the liturgy not as something we invent as we please, according to our ideas, following the trends and theories of the moment, but as a celebration of something greater than us, which we must enter and by which our own prayer is shaped. The Holy Father provides this teaching about the correct way to celebrate the liturgy by the example of his own celebrations, in which a sense of adoration, beauty and the Church’s tradition shines forth. 

I would like to stress once again the importance of faithful observation of the rules about the liturgy given by the Church: bishops and priests, ministers of the sacred liturgy, are not the masters of the liturgy, they cannot change it at will, and the faithful should not assume that liturgical celebrations are merely objects of taste and desire. The liturgy does not belong to anyone and cannot be manipulated by anyone at will! Regarding the liturgy too, we must ask whether we are in tune with the teaching and the example of the Pope. 

c) The Bond of Discipline. “Jesus entrusted to Peter... the ‘power of the keys’ (which) designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church” (CCC 553). Peter and his successors, as well as the bishops in communion with the Pope, have been entrusted with the task not only of teaching and sanctifying, but also of governing the people of God, giving guidelines and laws, which are to be received with respect and obedience, knowing that “the law of God entrusted to the Church is taught to the faithful as the way of life and truth” (CCC 2037). These rules are not arbitrary decisions of those who exercise power, but through them the divine will is manifested to us. Benedict XVI recalled this truth at the beginning of his pontificate: “My real programme of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him, so that He himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history” (Homily of 24 April 2005). 

… We celebrate in this Holy Eucharist “The Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul, ... through whom the Church received the beginnings of right religion” (Collect), i.e. the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, as Peter proclaimed. In the Church and through the Church, founded precisely on the rock, which is Peter, we continually receive, nurture and give witness to this faith. 

Let us entrust the person and ministry of Pope Benedict XVI to the intercession of the Holy Apostles. For ourselves and for the whole Church, let us pray that the bonds of faith, prayer and obedience with the Successor of Peter may be further strengthened, so that the Church in Indonesia and around the world may fulfil with renewed vigour the mission entrusted to her by our Lord Jesus Christ." (Source: The Embassy of the Holy See to Indonesia)

Too often, I suspect, in various controversies facing the Church from within or without what we experience as a loosening or violation of the bond of charity might quickly be healed if the concrete bonds of faith, prayer and obedience had not already been broken asunder.

Analyze if you will any contemporary problem we might have within the Church and you will find that at least one of these rules is at issue.

The recovery of the basics of faith and, apart from liturgy, of a life of prayer of communion with the Lord Who made and saved us in obedience to God's law and the precepts of His Church is too urgent.

Pray for the success of the Year of Faith soon to begin!

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