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PRAYER TO OUR LADY OF GOOD COUNSEL

PRAYER TO OUR LADY OF GOOD COUNSEL

Most glorious Virgin, chosen by the Eternal Counsel to be the Mother of the Eternal Word made flesh, treasure of divine grace and advocate of sinners, I, the most unworthy of thy servants, beseech thee to be my guide and counsellor in this vale of tears.

Obtain for me by the most Precious Blood of thy Son the pardon of my sins, the salvation of my soul, and the means necessary to obtain it. Grant that the Holy Catholic Church may triumph over her enemies, and that the Kingdom of Christ may be propagated on earth. Amen.

[100 days. – Leo XIII, Nov. 23rd, 1880]

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TODAY’S BIBLE READING (APOCALYPSE 18:1-2. 21-23. 19:1-3. 9)

TODAY’S BIBLE READING (APOCALYPSE 18:1-2. 21-23. 19:1-3. 9)

The state, its traders, the princes of the earth…He has condemned the famous prostitute who corrupted the earth…

Babylon the Great has fallen!

I, John, saw an angel come down from heaven, with great authority given to him; the earth was lit up with his glory. At the top of his voice he shouted, “Babylon has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, and has become the haunt of devils and a lodging for every foul spirit and dirty, loathsome bird.”

Then a powerful angel picked up a boulder like a great millstone, and as he hurled it into the sea, he said, “That is how the great city of Babylon is going to be hurled down, never to be seen again.

“Never again in you, Babylon,

will be heard the song of harpists and minstrels,

the music of flute and trumpet;

never again will craftsmen of every skill be found

or the sound of the mill be heard;

never again will shine the light of the lamp,

never again will be heard

the voices of the bridegroom and bride.

Your traders were the princes of the earth,

all the nations were under your spell.”

After this I seemed to hear the great sound of a huge crowd in heaven, singing, “Alleluia! Victory and glory and power to our God! He judges fairly, he punishes justly, and he has condemned the famous prostitute who corrupted the earth with her fornication; he has avenged his servants that she killed.” They sang again, “Alleluia! The smoke of her will go up for ever and ever.”

The angel said, “Write this: Happy are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

V. The word of the Lord. R. Thanks be to God.

 
 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MEN AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: THE LORD OF LIFE

THE TEN LEPERS

“While Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem, He entered a certain village and ten lepers called out to Him, ‘Jesus, master, have pity on us’ (Luke 17:13). Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests. While they were on their way to the priests, they were cured of their leprosy. Only one of them was grateful enough to return to Jesus to thank Him, and this one was a Samaritan.

WHEN IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD COMING?

As He was on His way to Jerusalem, the Pharisees came once again to try Him. They asked Him, ‘When is the kingdom of God coming?’ (Luke 17:20). Since Jesus had been preaching the arrival of the kingdom for some time, it is clear that the Pharisees were expecting something more striking than Jesus had already manifested. His works, His miracles were not apparently enough for them. No doubt they were expecting some great cosmic phenomena to manifest the tremendous power of God, or perhaps some great divine sign against the Romans, their oppressors.

SOME GREAT COSMIC PHENOMENA?

Jesus, knowing their desire for some external manifestation of divine power against the Romans, said to them, ‘The kingdom of God comes unawares. Neither will they say, ‘Behold, here it is,’ or ‘Behold, there it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is within you’ (Luke 17: 20-21). The meaning of Jesus is clear. The Pharisees were expecting the kingdom to begin with the liberation of the Jews from the domination of the Romans. This would demand some triumphant victory of the Jews over the Romans. The power of God would be manifested on the side of His Chosen People. The might of God would cast down into the dust the might of the greatest empire the world had ever known. But Jesus had not come to establish a world empire. So He told the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God had already come; it had come without the pomp and eclat of an earthly kingdom. It had already come; it was being established in their midst. But it had come quietly, for it was not to be a great political kingdom; it was meant to rule the hearts and souls of men, and it had already begun in the hearts of those who had given their allegiance to Jesus.

HE WOULD COME AGAIN SUDDENLY, IN POWER AND IN GLORY

This thought of the modest beginnings of His kingdom gave way in the mind of Jesus to the thought of His final coming at the end of the world to judge all men. “The days will come,’ He said, ‘when you will long to see one day of the Son of Man, and will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Behold, here he is; behold, there he is.’ Do not go, nor follow after them. For as the lightning when it lightens flashes from one end of the sky to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation’ (Luke 17:22-25).

These words Jesus addressed to His own disciples. He had come to men now in humility, but He would come again at the end of the world; He would come suddenly, in power and glory. Though men would be watching for His coming and pretending to find Him, He would come unexpectedly, swiftly, at a moment when they did not expect Him.

MANY WILL BE UNPREPARED FOR HIS SECOND COMING

The heart of Jesus is not entirely joyful at the thought of His triumph at the end of the world. He warns His disciples that many will be unprepared for His coming and will be lost. Just as no one heeded the warnings of Noe [Noah]; just as people went on wining and dining and sinning right up to the moment of the flood which destroyed them, so also will men be up to the moment when Jesus comes to judge them. At the end, then, many will still be forgetful of the Kingdom of God and so will be lost.

PERSISTING IN PRAYER TO GOD

Jesus then tells a parable to encourage His disciples to remain steadfast in their allegiance to Him and to His kingdom. A poor widow sought justice from an unjust judge. For a while he refused to render a verdict in her favour. But she persisted in coming to him. Finally, worn out by her pleas, the judge gave her a favourable verdict. The widow’s persistence had finally won justice. So also the disciples of Jesus must persist in prayer to God. If they do, their faith will triumph in the end. Then the eyes of Jesus turn once again to the end of the world and He remarks sadly, ‘Yet when the Son of Man comes, will he find, do you think, faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:8). Jesus knows that not all men will become His faithful disciples, not all men will enter His kingdom. And perhaps at the end His followers will be only a few among the many.

LORD, HAVE MERCY ON ME, A SINNER

On this same journey Jesus told also the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. Both went into the Temple to pray. The Pharisee took pride in his own virtue and, in his prayer, called God’s attention to the fact that he was not like other men a sinner. The publican, on the other hand, stood afar off, struck his breast in repentance and asked God to be merciful to a sinner. Jesus then pointed out that the humility of the publican was more pleasing to God than the pride and complacency of the Pharisee.

WHAT GOD HAS JOINED TOGETHER, LET NO MAN PUT ASUNDER

It was during this same journey to Jerusalem that Jesus gave His position on the questions of separation of spouses and divorce. The Pharisees asked Him directly if it were ever lawful for a man to separate from his wife. First of all Jesus laid down the law of the indissolubility of the marriage bond: ‘What God has joined together, let no man put asunder’ (Matthew 19:6). When the Pharisees objected that Moses had allowed the separation and divorce of spouses, Jesus replied that while it might be allowed to separate from a wife who was unfaithful, this separation did not dissolve the marriage bond, and neither the man nor the wife were allowed to remarry while the other spouse was alive. ‘Whosoever puts away his wife, except for immorality, and marries another, commits adultery’ (Matthew 19:9).

DON’T HINDER LITTLE CHILDREN TO COME TO ME

On another occasion the people were bringing their children to Jesus so that He might touch them. The disciples, probably afraid that Jesus might be wearied by this, sought to prevent the parents from so acting. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for of such is the kingdom of God. Amen I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God as a little child will not enter into it’ (Luke 18:16-17). Men must not approach the Kingdom of God filled with pride in themselves, but rather as little children, innocent and humble, seeking only to receive the riches of eternal life.

THE RICH YOUNG MAN

Soon after, a rich young man, attracted to Jesus, came to Him and asked, ‘Good Master, what shall I do to gain eternal life?’ Jesus told him that he must keep the commandments of God. The young man replied that he had done this all his life. Perceiving his good will, Jesus then said, ‘One thing is still lacking to thee; sell all that thou hast, and give it to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me’ (Luke 28:22). Jesus was giving this young man the chance to practise heroic virtue. He was even offering him the chance to become a favoured disciple. But the young man could not find it in his heart to part with his possessions, and so he left Jesus.

IT IS EASIER FOR A CAMEL TO PASS THROUGH THE EYE OF A NEEDLE…

This young man’s attachment to his wealth led Jesus to remark how difficult it was for the rich to love God wholeheartedly. ‘With what difficulty will they who have riches enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God’ (Luke 18:24-25). The disciples were astonished at His words. ‘Who then can be saved?’ the asked. But Jesus told them that God could save even the rich: ‘Things that are impossible with men are possible with God’ (Luke 18:27).

MANY WHO ARE FIRST NOW WILL BE LAST

This led Peter to say hopefully, ‘Behold, we have left all and followed thee’ (Luke 18:28). Jesus rewarded his hope. ‘Amen I say to you, there is no one who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands, for my sake and for the gospel’s sake, who shall not receive now in the present time a hundredfold as much, houses, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands – along with persecutions, and in the age to come life everlasting. But many who are first now will be last, and many who are last now will be first’ (Mark 10:29-31).

Jesus promised that those who loved Him would be taken care of in this world and, even more, they would receive life everlasting. But they would also be despised in this world and suffer persecution. But, at the end, those who had persecuted them and looked down upon them would be last, and the followers of Jesus would take the first places.

THE PARABLE OF THE LABOURERS IN THE VINEYARD

Then, and perhaps to emphasise the gratuitousness of God’s gifts to men, Jesus told the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. The owner of a vineyard hires labourers at the beginning of the day to work in his vineyard. Then about nine o’clock, again at noon and three, and just before evening he hired others to work also. He agreed to pay all a penny for their work. When the day was over he paid all the penny agreed upon. But those who had come early complained that they did not receive more than those who had come late. The owner of the vineyard told them that he had treated all with justice, for he had given all the sum agreed upon. If he chose to give the same sum to those who had worked less, that was due, not to injustice, but to his generosity. ‘Have I not a right to do what I choose?’ he asks. ‘Or art thou envious because I am generous?’ (Matthew 20:15)

God is not unjust to anyone, Jesus was saying. But His mercy to men was a free gift on His part. And in the mystery of His mercy He might give life everlasting even to those who had turned to Him only at the end of their lives. This should not cause those who had laboured long for life everlasting to complain. In fact, their complaints might show that they were less worthy of the divine mercy themselves. Hence Jesus concludes, ‘Even so the last shall be first, and the first last; for many are called, but few are chosen’ (Matthew 20:16).

THROUGH IT THE SON OF MAN MAY BE GLORIFIED

When Jesus was about a day’s journey from the village of Bethany, word was brought to Him from Mary and Martha in Bethany that their brother Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, was sick. Jesus loved Lazarus. But He did not hasten to Bethany to take care of him. ‘This sickness,’ He said, ‘is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that through it the Son of God may be glorified’ (John 11:4). Jesus waited two days and then said to His disciples, ‘Let us go again into Judea’ (John 11:7).

TOO DANGEROUS TO GO?

The disciples objected to His going because opposition to Him was strong in Judea. But Jesus, knowing that His hour was not yet come, insisted on going to aid Lazarus. ‘Lazarus, our friend, sleeps,’ He said, ‘but I go that I may wake him from sleep’ (John 11:11). Taking His words literally the disciples said, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he will be safe’ (John 11:12). Jesus then informed them that Lazarus was, in fact, dead. Thomas, the Apostle, seeing that Jesus was determined to go, said to the others, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ At this moment Thomas was ready to die with Jesus at the hands of the enemies of Jesus.

LAZARUS HAD ALREADY BEEN BURIED FOR FOUR DAYS

When Jesus arrived at Bethany Lazarus had already been buried for four days. Martha, on hearing of His coming, went to meet Him. ‘Lord,’ she said to Him, ‘if thou hadst been here my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever thou shalt ask of God, God will give it to thee’ (John 11:21-22). Jesus said to her, ‘Thy brother shall rise.’ Martha replied, ‘I know that he will rise at the resurrection, on the last day.’ Then Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, even if he die, shall live; and whoever lives and believes in me, shall never die. Dost thou believe this?’ And Martha said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, who hast come into the world (John 11:23-27).

Then Martha went to summon Mary. Some of the village dwellers followed Martha and Mary out to Jesus. Martha and Mary took Jesus to the tomb where Lazarus was buried. Some of the villagers murmured, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that this man should not die?’ (John 11:37).

LAZARUS, COME FORTH!

At the tomb Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, fearing the odour of the decaying body, said, ‘Lord, by this time he is already decayed, for he is dead four days.’ Jesus said, ‘Have I not told thee that if thou believe thou shalt behold the glory of God?’ The stone was then removed from the mouth of the tomb. Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, I give thee thanks that thou always hearest me; but because of the people who stand round, I spoke, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.’ After saying this, He cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ And at once Lazarus, who had been dead, came out of the tomb, still bound hands and feet in the burial bandages. Jesus commanded the bystanders to remove the bindings.

BY HIS APPREARANCE THERE HE WAS COURTING DESTRUCTION

The resurrection of Lazarus is one of the greatest of the miracles worked by Jesus. It is the third resurrection brought about by the power of Jesus. He had already restored life to the son of the widow at Naim and to the daughter of Jairus. In all three of these miracles Jesus had showed Himself to be the Lord of life. He proved the truth of His words, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ But, in the story of the resurrection, as told by John, there seems to be apparent an atmosphere of greater urgency and appeal than in the other miracles of Jesus. Jesus, against the urgings of His disciples, has come into Judea, the stronghold of His enemies. By His appearance there He was courting destruction. Yet He had insisted upon coming. It is as if He knew that His time was short, drawing rapidly to a close. He would, therefore, work a great miracle, right in the midst of those who were refusing to accept Him. It would be a strong appeal for their acceptance, one more effort to gain their good will.

That Jesus meant this miracle to be one of great importance in His mission is shown by His behaviour. He refuses to go at once to the aid of Lazarus because He knows that God wishes to manifest His glory through the resurrection of Lazarus. He realises that He Himself will be glorified by this miracle. He waits until Lazarus has been dead for some days before He goes to Bethany. Before working the miracle He demands from the sisters of Lazarus a confession of faith in Himself. And Martha acknowledges Him as the Messias, in fact, as the Son of God. Again, before working the miracle, Jesus says that it will happen, it will come to pass through the power of God so that men may believe that He has been sent by God, has come from God. And, lest there be any doubt about the reality of the resurrection, He commands that some of the bystanders unbind the risen Lazarus. He wished all to be convinced of the fact that He was the Lord of life, the giver of life.

JESUS HAD ASKED MEN TO ACCEPT HIM AS THE GIVER OF LIFE

Jesus had come into the world to give men eternal life, eternal life in the Kingdom of God. This was God’s greatest boon to mankind. He had asked men to accept Him as the giver of this life, the Anointed One of God, the Messias for whom they were waiting. He had worked miracles to prove His claim, to gain their faith. Some had followed Him. But many had rejected Him, and among these were the leaders of the people, the priests, the Scribes and the Pharisees. Now, in the resurrection of Lazarus, He would give them an unmistakable proof of His power and of His identity. By raising Lazarus back to life, Jesus showed Himself clearly to be the Messias, to be even more, the very Son of God, the Lord of life. By restoring to Lazarus the life of His body, Jesus showed Himself to be the Lord of eternal life. Those who accepted Him as such, would live forever in the Kingdom of God, and on the last day they would rise even in the body.

THEY RESOLVED TO PUT JESUS TO DEATH

That the resurrection of Lazarus was a decisive moment in the earthly life of Jesus is shown by its effects. Some of those who witnessed it believed in Him. But others, still opposed to Him, went to the Pharisees and reported His success to them. The priests and the Pharisees, instead of being convinced of His claims, called a council to decide what to do about Him. They refused to accept Him as the Messias, and so they could see in Him only a threat to their own power and position. They forgot that Jesus was not interested in an earthly kingdom. They feared that He might lead a rebellion against the Romans and so bring down on them the wrath of the Romans. Caiphas, the high priest that year, remarked cynically, ‘it is expedient for us that one man die for the people, instead of the whole nation perishing’ (John 11:50). The council of the Jews thereupon resolved to put Jesus to death.

GOD WAS USING HIS PLANS TO BRING ABOUT THE TRIUMPH OF JESUS

Although Caiphas was seeking his own ends in this decision, his words, in God’s sight, had a prophetic import. Caiphas was saying that it was better to put Jesus to death before a rebellion against the Romans broke out, so that the nation, and especially its ruling classes, should not suffer. But, as St John remarks, Caiphas was an unwitting prophet in the hands of God, for Jesus was to die not only to save His own nation but so that He might gather into one all the children of God throughout the world (John 11:51-52). Caiphas thought that he was planning the death of Jesus, but God was using his plans to bring about the triumph of Jesus.”

– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

 

 

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“THOU ART PETER, AND UPON THIS ROCK I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH” – THE POPE, THE VICAR OF CHRIST

“‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also on heaven’ (Matthew 16:18-19).

JESUS MADE SIMON PETER THE FOUNDATION STONE OF HIS KINGDOM

Jesus made Simon Peter the rock or foundation stone of His kingdom. In the mind of Jesus all power in His kingdom, the power to teach the divine message, the power to rule men unto salvation, the power to sanctify men for salvation, all these powers were to be centralised in Simon Peter and his successors to the leadership of the apostolic college.

THE COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM

That the early Christian community recognised this is a historical fact. It was at Peter’s suggestion that the other Apostles elected Matthias to take the place left vacant in the apostolic college by the defection of Judas. It was Peter who first preached the establishment of the kingdom on Pentecost Sunday. It was Peter who worked the first miracle to testify to the power of Jesus Christ. It was Peter who punished Ananias and Sapphira for attempting to deceive the first Christian community at Jerusalem. It was Peter who admitted the first Gentiles into the new kingdom. At the Council of Jerusalem it was Peter who decided to what extent Gentile converts to the kingdom were bound by the old Mosaic Law. It was to Peter that St Paul went seeking confirmation of his own call to preach the Gospel. So great was his authority among the earliest members of the kingdom that even St Paul boasts of having induced Peter to accept his own position on a matter of discipline.

THE SUCCESSION

Peter died as Bishop of Rome, and the Bishops of Rome succeeded to his leadership of the whole Church. Thus it is that we see the Popes, the Bishops of Rome, exercising in the Kingdom of God through the centuries the authority which Jesus had entrusted to Peter.

ST CLEMENT’S LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS

So it was that Clement of Rome, at the end of the first century, sent a letter to the Christians at Corinth asking them to restore to office the priests whom they had illegitimately deposed. His wishes were fulfilled by the Corinthians. In fact, they held his letter in such esteem that it was read during liturgical celebrations just as the letters of the original Apostles. This recognition of the authority of the Bishop of Rome is all the more remarkable since St John, one of the original Apostles, was still alive at Ephesus, much nearer to Corinth than Rome.

‘MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH RECEIVE THE FULL TEACHING OF JESUS FROM THE BISHOPS OF ROME’

At the end of the second century Pope Victor threatened to excommunicate the Asian bishops who refused to celebrate Easter on the date used by the rest of the Church. On the urging of Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, Victor did not carry out the threat. But the very fact that Victor threatened to do so, and the fact that Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp of Smyrna, and therefore a man acquainted with the traditions of the Church both in the East and in the West, felt it necessary in the interests of concord to urge him not to do so, testify to the recognition of his power to rule the whole Church. It should be mentioned also that Irenaeus gives testimony to the fact that members of the Church receive the full teaching of Jesus from the Bishop of Rome.

‘IT IS ST PETER WHO SPEAKS THROUGH THE POPE’

In the third century two bishops of Spain who had been accused of loss of faith appealed to Pope Stephen I. Similarly Pope Dionysius asked Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria, who was suspected of adhering to the Sabellian heresy, to make a profession of true faith.

THE COUNCIL OF NICEA

Even though the Council of Nicea – in 325 the first general or ecumenical council of the Church – was summoned at the order of the Emperor Constantine, it was the two legates of the Bishop of Rome who presided. Toward the end of the same fourth century Pope Siricius reminded the bishops of Spain that it is St Peter who speaks through the Pope.

THE COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON

In the fifth century the General Council of Chalcedon accepted the famous dogmatic letter of Leo as a statement of the true faith against the Monophysite heresy and proclaimed, ‘Peter has spoken through Leo.’ And, as we have previously seen, it was Pope Gelasius who during this century pointed out to the emperors that the Church held its power to rule from God and, thus, independently of the civil authority.

POPE GREGORY THE GREAT

In the sixth century Pope Gregory the Great reorganised the Church in Italy and sought to promote the reform of the Church in Gaul. It was Gregory who sent Augustine of Canterbury to convert England to the true faith.

THE THIRD COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE

In the seventh century the third council of Constantinople accepted the teaching of Pope Agatho against the Momothelite heresy. In the eighth century Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor of the West. Nicholas I excommunicated the bishops of Trier and Cologne for sanctioning the second marriage of King Lothair. He also intervened in the Photian schism at Constantinople and restored Ignatius to the bishopric of Constantinople.

THE PAPACY WAS INVOLVED IN A LONG STRUGGLE WITH SECULAR RULERS FOR THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE CHURCH FROM CIVIL AUTHORITY

From the ninth century on, the Papacy was involved in a long and serious struggle with secular rulers for the independence of the Church from civil authority. This struggle reached a climax in the reforming efforts of Pope Gregory VII, who succeeded in freeing the Church from the ’emperor’ King Henry IV of Germany.

THE PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH THE BEGINNING NATIONALISM IN THE SECULAR SPHERE

From this time on, the power of the Popes was supreme in matters of religion and Western Christendom generally recognised the supremacy of the Church over the State. But the situation changed after the conflict between Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) and Philip the Fair of France. Philip, in an effort to strengthen the French monarchy, sought a great measure of control over the Church in France. Boniface resisted his efforts, but without success. In the fourteenth century the Popes made the mistake of taking up residence at Avignon, within the borders of France. This gave the Papacy the appearance of being too favourable with the French. When finally the Popes returned to residence at Rome after the death of Pope Urban V, the French King Charles V disputed the election of Pope Urban VI and induced some French cardinals to elect Robert of Geneva as Pope Clement VII. This was the start of the Great Western Schism. Until the election of Martin V in 1417 Christendom was troubled and confused at the sight of rival claimants to the See of Peter. In 1417 there were three claimants to the Papacy. This unfortunate situation gave rise to the ‘Conciliar theory,’ the idea that a general council is superior to the Pope. Though Jesus Himself had made Peter and his successors (the Bishops of Rome) the supreme heads of His Church, the schism, coupled with the beginning of nationalism and the consequent desire of some nations (at least on the part of their sovereigns) to achieve independence of the divinely constituted authority of the Popes, gave impetus to the theory that a general council was superior even to the Pope. As a consequence the Popes had to fight against this attempt to destroy the foundations of authority in the Kingdom of God on earth. Pope Eugene IV found it necessary to dissolve the Council of Basel, which pretended to have authority over the Pope himself.

SECULAR RULERS WITH THEIR NATIONALISTIC AMBITIONS SUCCEEDED IN CONTROLLING CHURCH AFFAIRS IN SOME AREAS VIA LUTHER AND ZWINGLI

In the sixteenth century the Popes faced the most dangerous threat to their authority up to that time. In 1517 Martin Luther, a German monk, revolted against the authority of Rome. This sparked a movement which has become known as the Protestant Reformation. Luther, and other reformers such as Zwingli, were aided by kings and princes who sought control of church affairs. Pope Leo X did not act with sufficient force. As a consequence roughly half the Christians of Europe – chiefly those in northern Europe – left the true Church and joined heretical sects. The Council of Trent, which was summoned toward the middle of the century by Pope Paul III, by its reforming measures in the area of Church discipline and by its authoritative statement of Catholic teaching helped to stem the tide. But too much damage had already been done. And so from then until now the world is faced with the spectacle of millions of men, claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ, who will not submit in matters of discipline, doctrine or worship to the vicar of Christ, the Pope of Rome.

THE POPE, HOWEVER, DID NOT SWAP CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OR MORAL PRINCIPLE FOR POLITICAL INFLUENCE

One of the results of the so-called Reformation, with the establishment of powerful Protestant states, was that by the seventeenth century the Papacy had been reduced to a state of political unimportance. But it is to the credit of the Papacy that even though the Popes were anxious to restore Christian unity to the world they did not compromise Christian doctrine or moral principle in the effort to do so.

But the decline of papal political influence was less unfortunate than the decline of spiritual and moral influence of the Papacy which accompanied it. Basically the political power of the Papacy was only a reflection of its enormous spiritual influence. Ultimately kings and princes, such as Pepin and Charlemagne, gave grants of land and political power to the Popes because the Popes wielded great spiritual influence over the Christian people of Europe and were a stabilising factor in a war-torn world. But in time this political influence, though only in appearance, came to overshadow the spiritual force which it reflected and bolstered.

But the ‘Reformation’ struck directly at the spiritual authority of the Papacy. Up to the ‘Reformation’ the Church itself, the Church centralised in the authority of the Popes, was the first and the ultimate source of all doctrinal and disciplinary decision. But the ‘reformers’ asserted that the faith and the religious practice of every Christian was based on the right of every Christian to interpret the Bible for himself. For the divinely instituted authority of Peter the ‘reformers’ substituted the authority of the individual mind of the individual man. Naturally those who embraced this individualistic rule of faith no longer looked to Peter, in the person of the Pope, for the teaching of the message of Jesus and its application to the ever-changing conditions of history.

IT BECAME EVIDENT THAT SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLES AND STATE POWER DON’T MIX

The weakness, even the falsity, of this new principle became evident very quickly in the multiplication of Protestant sects, each differing from the others in one or more points of faith or religious discipline. Moreover many of these sects, in their efforts to survive, accepted the principle that the local prince or king was the head of the Church.

CONCESSIONS TO NATIONALISM BY PROTESTANTS

This was a concession to the growing principle of nationalism. But it was also a rejection of the real supranational character of the Christian kingdom, and it represented a betrayal of the principle enunciated by Jesus Himself: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’ It was in this spirit that the Lutherans in Germany recognised the right of the German princes to determine the religious views of their subjects and that Henry the Eighth made himself the supreme head of the Anglican Church. And so, at least for some time, what began as an emancipation of men from the authority of the Pope in the name of individual liberty became in fact an enslavement of religion to civil authority.

‘AN ENSLAVEMENT OF FAITH TO CIVIL AUTHORITY’

The loss of millions of members of the kingdom to the new heretical sects was in itself a great blow to the Church. But it had an even more insidious result. The princes of Catholic Europe were not slow to see the political advantages gained by the control which the Protestant sovereigns exercised over the Protestant churches in their domains. Anxious to make their own kingdoms as strong as possible in the face of growing nationalistic rivalries, Catholic princes also sought to control the Catholic Church within their own territories. Thus it was that in 1682 thirty-six French prelates, under the urging of Cardinal Richelieu, adopted the famous ‘Gallican Articles’ and sent them to the bishops in France. The ‘Articles’ held that the Pope is subject to a general council, the king is not subject to the Pope and that the Pope is not infallible. It is true that Pope Innocent XII succeeded in persuading Louis XIV of France to annul the ‘Articles.’ But the fact that they were disseminated at all shows that the spirit of anti-papism was to be found in Catholic France. The same tendency to reduce papal influence and enlarge the civil control of religion was shown also in the Febronianism and Josephinism which arose in Catholic Germany. All in all, these movements in Catholic countries coupled with state control of religion in Protestant countries were a concrete manifestation of the growing political theory of the absolute state, the state supreme in all the affairs of human life, even in the affairs of religion.

THE LOGICAL ‘NEXT STEP’ FOLLOWING THE PROTESTANT ‘REFORMATION’

To these religious and political counter-currents seeking to undermine the Church there was added in the eighteenth century the far more formidable adversary of rationalism in religion. The Kingdom of God is always a kingdom founded on faith, in fact on faith in mysteries which cannot be fully understood by the limited powers of the human mind. This faith is sustained in the world by the teaching authority of the Church, an authority sustained by and centralised in the Papacy. When Protestantism divorced the minds of men from this authority it was not long before these same minds were divorced from the divine revelation itself. Under the influence of Locke, Hume and Kant the message of Jesus was reduced to a purely natural religion, founded no longer on a divine revelation to man but now on the limited resources of the human mind. Since the philosophy of the time reduced the powers of the mind to the simple consideration and ordering, not of reality of real things but only of the ‘appearances’ of things, it became fashionable to hold that men could not prove the existence of God or the immortality of the human soul. In such an intellectual atmosphere men tended to become either atheists and irreligious or to found religious values purely on man’s emotions and the pragmatic necessity of supplying ease and satisfaction to these irrational emotions.

IN THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD…

Thus, in modern times the Papacy, seeking to preserve in the world the true Kingdom of God, has had to attempt to undo the ravages of the ‘Reformation,’ to preserve the independence of the Church [from secular power, also under the guise of Protestantism] and to assert the divine authority of the Christian revelation in the face of the attacks of rationalism. Through the General Council of Trent the Popes replied to the ‘Reformation.’ Through missionary efforts, especially under the central control of the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith (established in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV), the Papacy has carried on its divinely commissioned task to bring the Gospel to all the world. And so, in the providence of God, the losses occasioned by the ‘Reformation’ have been partly offset by the tightening of discipline within the Church and by the recruitment of members of the Kingdom in Africa, the Far East and the Americas.

THE CONTINUED INDEPENDENCE OF THE PAPACY OF ALL CIVIL STATES

In the face of attempts on the part of states to control the Church the Papacy has fought a long battle which is not yet, perhaps, over. The political power and prestige of the Papacy itself declined until in 1870 with the annexation of the Papal States by the newly founded kingdom of Italy it was eclipsed. Under Pius XI, in 1929, the ‘Roman Question’ was settled by the Lateran Treaty with the government of Mussolini. The tiny Vatican State was established and its rights recognised by Italy. In this way the independence of the Papacy of all civil states was formally recognised.

THE RIGHT OF THE CHURCH TO SPEAK IN THE WORLD FOR GOD IS STILL AN UNEASY ONE TO EXERCISE

But the right of the Church to speak in the world for God is still an uneasy one to exercise. This is shown by the fact that the Popes of the last few centuries have found it necessary to make concordats or agreements with modern states guaranteeing to the Church the right to function under certain limitations.

THE POPES CONDEMNED MANY INTELLECTUAL ERRORS OF MODERN TIMES

In the struggle with rationalism the Popes have found it necessary to condemn many of the intellectual errors of modern times. In this regard the Vatican Council convened by Pius IX stands out. The council affirmed clearly the ability of the human mind to discover the existence of God, and to recognise God’s message to men by the divine signs (especially miracles and prophecies) which accompany it in its journey through time. In addition it announced firmly to the world the supreme power of the Pope, the successor of St Peter, to teach, rule and sanctify men. In the face of scepticism it affirmed also the power of the Pope to teach infallible matters of faith and Christian morality.

THE HISTORY OF THE PAPACY SHOWS THAT THE WORDS OF JESUS ARE BEING FULFILLED

The history of the Papacy, then, shows that the words of Jesus are being fulfilled. The Papacy is the rock on which the kingdom is founded, founded so firmly that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Down through the centuries the Papacy has been the indefatigable defender of the independence of the Kingdom of God. Down through the centuries the Papacy has been the faithful guardian of Christian truth, protecting the kingdom against the loss of even the least element of the divine message entrusted to it by Jesus.

THE GATES OF HELL WILL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT (Mt 16:18b)

At the present moment the position of the Papacy as the Vicar of Christ is clear. In the face of political totalitarianism it stands out as the champion of the independence of the spiritual Kingdom of God. In the face of religious indifferentism, of intellectual scepticism and nihilism, the Papacy is the divinely appointed voice of supernatural religion, the champion of both reason and faith. Confronted with irreligious and misguided rationalism, the Church speaks to the world under the guidance of the Popes, the words of God, the divine revelation whose divine dimensions cannot be reduced to the narrow confines of unaided human reason, but whose mysterious depths of truth lie open to the humble eyes of faith.

NO ‘PRISONER’ HAS EVER, IN THE WORLD OF SPIRIT, BEEN MORE INFLUENTIAL IN THE WORLD AT LARGE

It is a remarkable fact that in our contemporary era, at a time when the political power of the Papacy is practically extinguished, the character of the Papacy as the rock on which Christ founded His Church can be seen with outstanding clarity. From Pius IX to Pius XI the Pope was popularly known as the ‘prisoner of the Vatican.’ Yet no ‘prisoner’ has ever, in the world of the spirit, been more influential in the world at large.

THE POPES HAVE STOOD HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE THE REST OF MEN IN THEIR STRUGGLE TO FOSTER WHAT IS BEST IN MAN

From Leo XIII to Pius XII the Popes have stood head and shoulders above the rest of men in their struggle to foster what is best in man, to safeguard and raise the spirit of man. In the midst of the political turmoil of the nineteenth century it was Leo XIII who freed the Church from allegiance to any particular form of government. It was Leo who, in the face of the Industrial Revolution and its creation of a landless, poverty-stricken proletariat, proclaimed the rights of the working man and the obligations of capital to provide decent working conditions and an adequate wage for workers. It was he also who revived the sane philosophy and theology of St Thomas Aquinas as an antidote to the intellectual errors of scepticism, naturalism and materialism.

THE PAPACY AFFIRMS THE LIBERTY OF THE INDIVIDUAL IN THE FACE OF THE ALL-POWERFUL STATE

Under his successor, Pius X, we see the Church strengthening itself within itself. He inaugurated a liturgical revival, urging the faithful to a greater personal understanding of and participation in the Church’s worship of God through the Mass and the Sacraments. The internal discipline of the Church was strengthened by the clarification and codification of Canon Law, the law which regulates Church discipline.

Pius XI, confronted with the attack on individual freedom by totalitarian philosophies of fascism, nazism and communism, affirmed the liberty of the individual in the face of the all-powerful state. Against the racial bias of these political philosophies, against the theories of racial superiority by blood, he affirmed the equality of all men in the sight of God. Conscious of the need of the Church to bring the message of the Gospel to all men, he encouraged the works of Catholic Action. He urged the Catholic laity to assist the bishops in the work of the apostolate, in the task of leavening an unbelieving world with the elevating yeast of Catholic doctrine and practice. Outside the Church the growth of the practices of divorce and birth control were destroying the moral fibre of society. Pius XI denounced the immorality of [artificial] birth control and asserted the sanctity and the indissolubility of marriage.

THE CHAMPIONS AGAINST THE PREVAILING MATERIALISM OF OUR AGE

During this period two great world wars showed how far the bonds of social and political action between the nations of the world had deteriorated. Benedict XV, Pius XI and Pius XII spoke clearly for peace and the cultivation of virtues which maintain peace. Though the nations did not listen, the Popes carried on a worldwide work of bringing succour to those made homeless by the destruction of war.

But the one thing that has become increasingly evident in modern times is that the Church, under the leadership of the Papacy, is the great champion of the spiritual element in human life against the prevailing materialism of the age. This is evident both in the Papal defence of what we might call specific human spiritual values and in the Papal insistence on the validity of the divine mysteries which have been revealed to the Church and which constitute the only true basis of human hope for salvation.

‘MEN AREN’T SIMPLY THE TOOLS OF A MATERIALISTIC STATE’

Thus, under Pius IX, the Vatican Council insisted on man’s ability, as a creature composed of body and spiritual soul, to discover the great fundamental truths of the existence of God and of his divinely founded Church. Leo XIII defended the dignity of all men in an age which was seeking to make men simply the tools of a materialistic state. Pius XI and Pius XII defended man’s freedom as a spiritual being in the face of the encroachment of totalitarian materialism on the sphere of man’s free spirit.

IN A WORLD HAS RETURNED TO THE OLD ERROR OF ADAM, THE ERROR OF SEEKING SALVATION BY ITS OWN UNAIDED EFFORTS…

But, best of all, in a world which has returned to the old error of Adam, the error of seeking salvation by its own unaided efforts, the Popes have, with ever increasing vigour and courage, insisted on the great revealed mysteries which the Church possesses. The worldly prophets of the time preach a universal brotherhood of men founded on the tyranny of an absolute state. Pius XII held out to the world the only possibility of achieving a true human brotherhood of men, the super-union of all men in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. In the Mystical Body of Christ men may achieve that fraternal union with one another which grace and charity make possible. In a secularist world where false prophets seek to institute a world government totally divorced from religious principles Pius XI insisted that all nations must recognise the kingship of Christ. World unity is possible only if men and nations are motivated by truly religious principles. In a world deep in despair because it has been taught that man is only matter doomed to eternal extinction by death, Pius XII fearlessly proclaimed the dignity, the spirituality and the immortality of all men in the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary, the Mother of God, body and soul into heaven. To the world’s despair he proclaimed the hope of salvation, the hope of resurrection and immortality.

THE ROCK OF PETER STANDS UNMOVED AS A BEACON OF LIGHT, SET IN ITS PLACE BY THE REAL WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE

In this present age the Papacy stands out once again as the Rock of Peter, the Rock on which God founded His kingdom among men. The furious tides of political opinion and international disputes have stripped the Rock of political power. But this stripping has only served to reveal its essential character. In the midst of the rushing waters of materialism and barbarism, staunch against the breaking waves of war and despair, the Rock of Peter stands unmoved as the first and last champion of man and of God.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959 (headings in capital letters added afterwards)

 

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