Meditations by Msgr. Liptak

 

Msgr. Liptakweekly gospel meditations

 

NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Christ's Presence in the Church throughout History

First Kings 19:9, 11-13; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33

Aim: (1) to show the Church's continuing existence sign of Christ's continuing existence; (2) to demonstrate this against the background of Church history.

Today's First Reading is the beautiful story of how Elijah the prophet found God. The scene was the ninth century B.C. The notorious Queen Jezebel had successfully thwarted Elijah's crusade to turn Israel back to God. The prophet was forced to take flight from the queen, who was determined to execute him, and he took refuge in a cave. There, he began to learn how God often works, how God enters into our world: not in spectacular commotions like earthquakes, raging storms, or gigantic fires, but in a quiet, subtle, unobtrusive manner, as Jesus himself came in a quiet, subtle, unobtrusive fashion.

Christ comes to us this way today, still, through his Mystical Body, the Church; this rather unspectacular community of believers without power or prestige in the worldly sense has survived the centuries.

The obituary of this our Roman Church has been written many, many times; likewise, the obituary of the papacy. The Church, in fulfillment of Christ's promise (Mt 28:20), goes on, always.

From the very beginning, our Church was threatened with extinction. Peter, mysteriously drawn to Rome, was martyred there under Nero. For three hundred years, the Church was persecuted; it literally had to go underground-to the catacombs. It survived gloriously.

When the barbarians sacked Rome in 410, Christendom was reported at an end. The same report was circulated later when the barbarians swept throughout Europe, even to the British Isles. But the Church and the papacy survived.

The dawn of the Renaissance triggered new obituary notices for the Church and the papacy. When the popes went into exile in Avignon, France, in 1309, the Church's demise was thought by some as imminent. Later, when the Great Western Schism began in 1378, it was thought more imminent.

During the French Revolution in the late 18th century, the Church's death was announced anew. The name of Notre Dame of Paris was changed to the Temple of the Goddess of Reason. The Church and the papacy went on.

In more recent times, Josef Stalin once demanded to know, sarcastically, how many legions the Pope had. Today Stalin is dead, buried, and disgraced, even in the U.S.S.R. The papacy is alive; the Roman Church goes on.

Now other strident voices are heard, in fresh attempts to write the obituaries of the Roman Church and the papacy. Secularists charge that the Church has lost relvancy; dissidents claim the papacy has lost credibility. With Christ the Church of Rome endures.

In this Church founded on the Apostles he walks upon the stormy waters of this life: again, not spectacularly, but quietly, subtly, unobtrusively. And he brings with him, for those who recognize him in his Church, the covenant promises once made to Israel, of which Paul speaks in today's Second Reading: our divine adoption, our membership in his new Covenant, our sharing in his law, worship, and promises.

"Come," Jesus now says, to us, through his Church, as we falter on the rough seas of a confused world. 

 
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