Monday, December 15, 2014

If No One Is Pope, Everyone is Pope

“When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its cornerstone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward – in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Gospel Text: (MT 21:23-27)
When Jesus had come into the temple area,
the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him
as he was teaching and said,
“By what authority are you doing these things?
And who gave you this authority?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me,
then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things.
Where was John’s baptism from?
Was it of heavenly or of human origin?”
They discussed this among themselves and said,
“If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us,
‘Then why did you not believe him?’
But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd,
for they all regard John as a prophet.”
So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.”
He himself said to them,
“Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Jesus asks who the crowds say that He is. In modern times we love to take polls and many moderns put a lot of stock in what polls say. Many people (Catholics among them) like to point out that x% of Catholics think this or that about moral teachings or about doctrines and disciplines. It is as if the fact that more than 50% of Catholics think something makes it true, and that the Church should change her teaching based on this.

But as this gospel makes clear, taking a poll doesn’t necessarily yield the truth. In fact ALL the assertions of the crowd were wrong no matter what percentage held them. Jesus is not John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. So, running the Church by poll-taking or democracy seems not to be a model that works.

Jesus, having taught this implicitly, now turns to a group of experts, a “blue-ribbon panel” if you will. He asks the twelve, “Who do you (apostles) say that I am?” Here we simply get silence. Perhaps they were looking around like nervous students in a classroom, not wanting to answer lest they look foolish. The politics on the panel led not to truth but to a kind of self-serving, politically correct silence. That Peter finally speaks up is true. But, as Jesus will say, he does not do this because he is a member of the panel but for another reason altogether. Hence the blue-ribbon panel, the committee of experts, is not adequate in setting forth the religious truth of who Jesus is.

And through this line of questioning, Jesus instructs through inquiry. Polls and panels are not adequate in yielding the firm truth as to His identity. All we have are opinions or politically correct silence. Having set forth this inadequacy, the Gospel now presses forward to describe God’s plan in setting forth the truths of faith.

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