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21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Authority of the Pope
Because Our Lord gives such authority to Peter, the Church has always been careful to make it clear how that authority must be exercised by the Bishops of Rome, Peter's successors. Not least because throughout history there have been Popes who have been bad men or at least men who failed to be good shepherds.
So in exercising his God given authority a Pope is bound by the traditions of the Church, he is bound by the truth revealed in Christ and taught by the church. He is bound by reason. A group of Catholics were asked 'what if the Pope taught that 2 + 2 = 5'? The man who thought he was a good Catholic said If the Pope taught it I would believe it. The man who was a good catholic said 'if the Pope taught it I would say publicly 'perhaps I have misunderstood the Holy Father' but privately I would pray that he regain his common sense''.
The office of Peter exercised by the Popes throughout the centuries can only be understood along with other aspects of the Church, which at its heart is a relationship with Jesus.
The biggest claim of our Christian faith is that God, the incomprehensible, uncontainable, eternal, all powerful, creator, becomes completely identified with a man, an individual, living at a particular time in a particular place. Jesus Christ.
I just mention two, the most important. The relationship of Mary. The Marian dimension of the Church and the relationship of Peter, the Petrine dimension.
The biggest claim of our Christian faith is that God, the incomprehensible, uncontainable, eternal, all powerful, creator, becomes completely identified with a man, an individual, living at a particular time in a particular place. Jesus Christ. As such this man Jesus, who is God, must enter into relationships with other individuals. Like any individual Jesus has relations, a family, friends and neighbours. The Church can be understood as the collection of individuals who have entered into a relationship with the man Jesus who is God.
Marian dimension of the Church
The fundamental relationship Jesus has with another human individual is with his mother. It begins in silence and secrecy, with mercy and forgiveness, as Mary is conceived immaculate, inseparable from God and it continues in silence as Mary, giving the perfect 'Yes' of faith and love to God gives her body to form the child growing within her, gives her life to serve and care for this child, in silence, broken only once to seek his help at the wedding in Cana, she accompanies him in love to the foot of the cross, to the tomb, through the resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, until still in silence she is assumed into heaven, body and soul, to dwell for ever in perfect loving communion with her son, her creator, her God, her child. Receiving, giving life, silence, meditation, compassion, charity, dignity, heroic purity, heavenly glory. This is the expression of Mary's relationship with Jesus, God made man. And it is a fundamental dimension of the Church. The Marian dimension.
Petrine dimension of the Church
But just as the complimentarity of male and female, man and woman is part of the image of God that mankind bears, so too in the Church there is the Petrine dimension to compliment the Marian dimension. The silent, meditative, self giving love of the Marian dimension must also be expressed publicly. How does a community of so many different individuals remain faithful to Jesus and the truth he reveals. What happens if, because of doubt or sin, questions and disputes arise? This is Peter's task. Peter who can be wrong, who is impetuous and foolish, but who recognises the truth, not because he is clever or holy, or gentle or wise, but because God the Father has revealed it to him.
How does a community of so many different individuals remain faithful to Jesus and the truth he reveals. What happens if, because of doubt or sin, questions and disputes arise? This is Peter's task.
Mary is holiness, Peter points to holiness, Mary is love of Jesus, Peter reflects that love, in response to different times and situations Peter points to where the eternal Marian dimension can be found, Peter teaches with authority and Mary carries the truth in her womb, Peter forgives, Mary is preserved from sin, Peter governs, Mary is God's mother. Peter can speak infallibly because Mary said yes to the word of God, yes to our salvation.
You cannot understand Peter without Mary and you cannot understand Mary without Peter, the two must go together because the relationship each of them has with Jesus is vital to the Church and vital to our own salvation. We share in these two dimensions. In our relationship with Jesus, we must love and act in love, we must contemplate the truth and speak the truth, we must serve and obey in silence but we must guide and correct in public.