|From "Lousy Leaders and Sorry Sheep"|
I could not help wondering if any deacons, priests and bishops felt uncomfortable standing up and giving a homily on Sunday following the Gospel reading about the Good Shepherd. (John 10: 27 – 30) I also wondered if they would feel equally awkward every day of this entire week, since the message of Sunday extends through each day of this week? Sadly, the reality is that those who should, probably do not even realise that they have a reason to squirm.
The core message of the Gospel readings, starting on Sunday and proceeding through this week, is that if we believe in and love Jesus, we will listen to his voice and follow only him. Hence we will be united to him and come under his protection. Even though we will still have to struggle and resist those who want to lead us away from the true message of Jesus, with the help of his grace, we will be protected from being deceived and persevere to the end.
The question is how does God protect us from being deceived? How does God enable us to hear with certainty his voice? How do we know that the message we are being given is the true message of Jesus and not, quite frankly, hocus-pocus? How do we ensure that we are not led astray?
None of us, individually, seriously believe that we have infallible knowledge of what is truly of God and what is not. There are some areas that are easily discerned but there are many more areas that are not so easily discernible. We therefore realise, if we are wise, that because of our human frailty we require assistance to ensure that the voice we hear calling and which we choose to follow, is truly that of Jesus and not the consequence of concupiscence.
This guidance comes to us via the Church because “Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity, as a visible organisation through which he communicates truth and grace to all men.”
The Church was given a very specific “structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved. Before all else there is the choice of the Twelve with Peter as their head.” We all know those famous words quoted often: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”
It therefore follows that if we truly wish to discern whether the voice we hear calling us and teaching us is that of Jesus, we must compare it to the official teaching of the Church. If what we are hearing is not the same, even if it sounds very similar, we can be certain that we are dealing with what Jesus calls a “thief and a robber.”
In this regard we should not be surprised to find that what is presented to us by a “thief and a robber” more often than not seems very similar to what the Church teaches. Any differences will seem reasonable and logical extensions of what the Church teaches. However, we must remember that this is exactly the point. They do not advertise their presence. Their actions are intended to make us trust them. Jesus says that they do “not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way”. If they came straight through the door we would all see them and we would know them for what they are.
It really is not rocket science! St Ambrose sums it up so well: “Ubi Petrus ibi ecclesia, et ibi ecclesia vita eternal”. (Where there is Peter there is the Church, where there is the Church there is life eternal.) If the Church does not officially teach it, then it is the message of a “thief and a robber.”
Sadly the problem Catholics face today is that we get so many mixed messages, often from within the Church and often from our clergy. We simply can no longer just accept at face value what some of our pastors tell us, be it during Mass or anywhere else. It has become increasingly necessary for us Catholics to haul out our Catechism books and begin educating ourselves so that we know exactly what the Church really does teach.
Once we do this it of course becomes far easier to identify those who have become a “thief and a robber”: It is the ones who present a variation, no mater how slight, of the Church’s official teaching on Faith and Morals.
These are the ones whose pride has led them to believe that they are so much wiser, holier and more enlightened than Holy Mother Church; the ones whose pride has so affected them that they would have you believe that they are better able to communicate the true teaching of Jesus, than the Church has been able to do thus far. They are our squirming shepherds!