THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Her Doctrine and Morals
8 April 2018
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The Sunday Sermon Archive
We are all eager to see with our eyes the Risen Christ. However, it is not fitting for Jesus to come down from Heaven to show Himself to us. It is through faith that we will come to see Him. Jesus came in the flesh and manifested Himself materially before the disciples. These could believe because they had seen. We are called upon to be even more blessed than they were by believing without seeing.
The doubts of St. Thomas, are for our benefit. It is through his doubts that our faith is strengthened. His incredulity profits us in that we are assured that there was an investigation and verification of the Resurrection. Faith precedes our vision, but the vision of Jesus to the disciples makes our faith possible.
We recall something else in today's Gospel. Jesus breathed upon the Apostles and imparted the Holy Ghost to them giving them the power of binding and loosening sins. "Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them ..." This divine power is placed into the hands of men mere mortals. Once again, our faith is called forth. We must see Jesus Christ and His power in His priests.
This, perhaps, requires an even greater act of faith than believing that Jesus has risen from the dead. We are called upon to see with our eyes mere men even sinful men, but through the eyes of our faith, to see the power of God. We honor and respect priests not because they are worthy or deserving of this honor or respect of themselves; but because of the power of God that is entrusted to them.
It often appears that God chooses the least to manifest His power and glory. When good things come through the hands of the priest, frequently no one is more surprised than the priest himself. He knows his own inability and unworthiness. This is how it should be. We should all know that all good things come to us from God, not from men. This understanding is best impressed upon us when we receive God's grace from the most unlikely sources. St. John Chrysostom says: "For if He made use of the voice of an ass to speak, and bestowed spiritual blessings by means of a soothsayer; because of the Jews, working by the mouth of a dumb beast, and by the unclean tongue of Balaam how much more for you who are worthy, even though the priests be wholly unworthy, will He do all things, and send His Holy Spirit upon you?"
We must each give an account of our own lives, but the priest must give an account of his life as well as ours. He is called upon by God to shepherd our souls for God and to lead us to God. The weight of this impossible burden is only made possible by the grace of God. However, this grace is imparted to the priest principally for the benefit of the rest of men and is merited for him through the prayers and works of others.
It is therefore incumbent upon all of us to pray for priests, lest they be crushed by the weight of the God's gifts for our benefit. The priest cannot forgive his own sins, but ours. He bears this burden for us, not for himself. It truly takes the eyes of faith to understand and appreciate all this, but this faith is what brings forth the blessings of God and opens our eyes to the vision of Jesus in Heaven.
We are reminded by St. John Chrysostom that the harsher our judgments are toward one another, the harsher God's judgment will be toward us. We should tend to the beam that is in our own eye rather than to the mote that is in our neighbor's eye. If we must be careful in judging one another, we need to be even more so in the matter of judging priests. There is no doubt that evil must be condemned, but the manner in which it is done is imperative for our own souls as well as for the souls of those we intend to aid.
As we see and hear the representatives of God, we need to open our eyes with the faith that God has given us. We should behold the hand that God uses and the mouth that He employs for our forgiveness. These instruments of God's grace for us should be seen and appreciated for what God does through them not for what they are of themselves. Of themselves they are nothing or even less than nothing for the offenses they may have committed against God.
With the eyes of faith, we see the lifeline that God has tossed to us. We best not find too much fault with the lifeline or it will be withdrawn and we will be left without one all together. Rather than point out the faults of human priests, let us pray for them and do all that we can to help them become better priests. In doing so, we not only help them and make their burden lighter, but we also help ourselves. The stronger our spiritual life line is, the better our own chances of being saved.
We are truly blessed when we see the human priest with our eyes, yet believe in the Divine Priest that is in him, hidden from our view.
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