Thursday, 3 May 2018

SS Philip and James

Readings: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Psalm 19; John 14:6-14

We believe in the Church that is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The last refers to the fact that the Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles, on their lives and preaching, and on the witness of their deaths. The Church is not only spread throughout the world, it is also spread across time. G.K. Chesterton wrote that the Catholic Church is the most democratic of organisations because, in the role it assigns to tradition, it gives a voice also to the dead. The way, truth, and life of which Jesus spoke to the Apostles is present in the Church for all subsequent generations.

This movement through time is already underway in the New Testament. Paul tells us that he is passing on what he has received. The tradition is already happening as the Church passes to the next generation all that she is and has, the teaching of Christ, the spiritual and moral teaching that has been handed down from the apostolic age.'What was handed on by the apostles comprises everything that serves to make the people of God live their lives in holiness and increase their faith. In this way the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes. The Tradition that comes from the apostles makes progress in the Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit' (Dei Verbum 8).

The Apostles had the text of Scripture and they had the events of the life and ministry, passion and death, resurrection and appearances of Christ. These events illuminated the texts for them and explained its fulfillment. At the same time the texts provided them with words to describe the events which surpassed their expectation and their understanding. As Vatican II said of God's revelation of Himself, it happened through words and events, each interpreting and illuminating the other. 'The course of revelation is through actions and words intimately bound up with each other, in such a way that the deeds which God performed in the history of salvation, make clear and substantiate the doctrine and the things signified by the words; and the words for their part proclaim the deeds of God and clarify the mystery which is at work in them' (Dei Verbum 2).

What about us, we might be tempted to ask. What do we have to illuminate and interpret our questions and our desire for faith? Well, we still have the Scriptures and we have the body of Christ in the community of those who believe in Him. To see the disciples of Jesus is to see him, and he is the one who reveals the Father to us. We may say - with good reason - that much has come in the way of our seeing Christ through the Church. But we are to look first to the holiness of the Church and to those of its members who are saints. This is where we see the Christian life strong and fruitful. It is always a seeing in faith but supported by Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life, and who does reveal himself to those who seek him in the Scriptures and in the life of the Church.

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