Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A typical Lukan expression pops up in today's reading from Acts: the understatement. "There arose no little dissension and debate..." (Yesterday we were told that Paul and Barnabas stayed "no little time" with the disciples in Antioch.) That "no little dissension" in the early Church had to do with the hot topic of the day: should circumcision be mandatory for Gentile believers? You would have thought the question had been settled five chapters earlier, in Acts 10, when Peter (told by a heavenly voice not to discriminate) went to the home of the uncircumcized Cornelius and then ordered that his whole household be baptized. Peter was challenged about that, but he reasoned that if the Holy Spirit had come upon everyone in such a manifest way already, what possible further pre-requisite could there be? The dissenters demurred then, but you can see that all they did was bide their time. They simply refused to surrender their own opinion, and kept trying to reform the Church according to the vision they had in mind for it. These people became the bane of Paul's existence, following him on his missionary journeys to correct what they saw as his incomplete and erroneous ways. (You can see the evidence of this in Paul's letters!)
It's a real contradiction of the Gospel we hear today: "I am the vine... Just as a branch cannot bear fruit unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you."
But the Church is still facing the same sort of problem. I've been really impressed lately how many new schisms there are, all fomented by people who insist on their vision of the Church, even to the point of sacrilege! Funny thing is, these groups, while splitting from the universal Church in matters of faith and morals, insist on a few things: use of the word "Catholic," externals like conventional vesture for priests and bishops, and (saddest of all) valid ordination of their own in-house bishops. This is what defines them as self-made schismatic denominations. Many of them then attempt to "ordain" women, believing that the Roman Catholic Church has simply failed to listen to the Holy Spirit in this matter. (The most egregious offender in this is the oddly named "Roman Catholic Womenpriests," but they are just plain weird.) One of these new schisms originated as an informal community of Franciscan inspiration which evolved into a "new" Church (they made sure their male founder got valid episcopal Orders). They graciously offer ordination to whomever desires it, and even allow their members to continue belonging to their Church of origin, although they recommend that such dual citizens inform their original pastor of their situation. Another schismatic community has organized itself into multiple dioceses, some headed by women bishops. This group accepts the "need" for abortion, and willingly presides over same-sex vows.
"Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither." Those are hard words from the Good Shepherd. What they say to me today is that there is a real need for a spirit of reparation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very well said. Some are basing their beliefs on popular culture.