"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Not My Will But Yours Be Done

This past Sunday at the 10 AM Mass at the Saint Louis Cathedral Basilica, I was struck by a number of thoughts while listening to the homily by Monsignor Joseph Pinns. (That homily is available in mp3 format here; a transcript of the homily is available here.) One of my thoughts was that if, as Peter Leithart claims, "the tendency to obscure the gospel and to displace Christ is inherent in Roman Catholic theology and practice" (see here), would Leithart claim that this homily obscures the gospel and displaces Christ, or would he deny that it is a Catholic homily?

But some of my other thoughts related more directly to the topic of the reunion of all Christians. In Sunday's Gospel reading (St. Luke 12:49-53) we see that Jesus comes to bring division. Monsignor Pinns said,
When Jesus speaks about division, He refers to that inevitable divide that occurs between people who embrace His way, and those who refuse it or oppose it, opposing the cross, that is, Christ Himself.
The division that Christ brings is not a division between His followers one from another, but between His followers and those who refuse to follow Him. Therefore the divisions within Christianity are each a result of a refusal to follow Him in some respect.

Monsignor Pinns went on to contrast the peace of the world with Christ's peace. He pointed out that Jesus Himself contrasted His peace with the peace of the world. Concerning the world's peace, Monsignor Pinns said:

But what is the world's peace based on? Compromise, concessions, bargaining, accommodation with the mores of the secularism around us, but all in an effort to balance power. That's this world's peace.
In this description of the world's peace, I am reminded of the kind of ecumenicism that seeks unity by finding the lowest common denominator between all the divided parties. Such an ecumenicism is doomed to failure, like the fragile unity with which the feet and toes made of iron and clay were unified (Daniel 2). The peace it pursues is the world's peace.

But the peace of Christ is exemplified in Christ's words "Not My will but Yours be done". It is the peace of submission to God. For Christ it was the peace of submission to the Father. For the Apostles it was the peace of submission to Christ. For those bishops appointed by the Apostles it was the peace of submission to the Apostles. And for us it is the peace of submission to those bishops appointed by them through sacramental succession. Monsignor Pinns said,
Jesus's peace is demonstrated perhaps most clearly in all the Gospels in a few sentences in the description of the events in the Garden of Gethsemane at the moment when Jesus was arrested. He agonized. And all His prayer was summed up in: "Not My will but Yours be done." And He rose from that prayer resolute and strong and composed and peaceful, interiorly, though still opposed by those who came to arrest Him. Put that in contrast to the reason that the good is always warred upon. It goes all the way back to another in a garden who didn't pray, and simply announced: Not Your will but mine be done. That's what Adam said. Not Your will but mine be done. Did Adam find peace? No, he introduced all the division and the chaos and the warring on the good that the world has ever experienced since. But it began right there.
Christ's peace involved submission to the will of the Father. By contrast, all the division that came upon mankind was due to Adam's "Not Your will but mine be done."

What does that have to do with the unity of the Church? Everything. The essence of Protestantism is "protest to the point of forming a schism or remaining in schism". It involves the rejection of the legitimate sacramental magisterial authorities who were appointed by the successors of the Apostles, and the replacement of them with the individualism of self-rule by private judgment, and/or
with rule by those selected based on whether they teach in accordance with the individual's own interpretations (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3) -- such teachers have only "doctrinally grounded authority". [See, for example, the discussion in the combox here.] Each man is his own ultimate interpretative and ecclesial authority. If he disagrees with his pastor, he simply moves down the street to the next congregation that teaches in accordance with his own interpretation. And if none of the congregations in his area conforms to his interpretation, he simply starts his own congregation and appoints himself its pastor. To become or remain a Protestant [a "protester to the point of forming a schism or remaining in schism] is to say to the Church: "Not your will but mine be done." And thus (cf. St. Luke 10:16) it is to say to Christ and the Father: "Not Your will but mine be done."

In tempting Eve, Satan did not challenge God's Word per se; he challenged the authorized interpretation that Adam had given to Eve. The debate was about interpretation. Satan provided an alternative [non-authorized] and spiritualized intepretation about dying (i.e. dying to ignorance and blindness), and Eve followed the non-authorized interpretation, as I have discussed here.

The peace that Christ gives, the only kind of peace that can truly reunite all Christians is not found in the ecumenicism that seeks some common ground while clinging to the rejection of sacramental magisterial authority. The peace that Christ gives, the only kind of peace that can truly reunite all Christians is not found in each man being his own self-appointed interpretive authority. The peace that Christ gives, the only kind of peace that can truly reunite all Christians, can be found when we say to Christ (by saying to those whom the Apostles appointed -- cf. St. Luke 10:16): "Not my will but Yours be done." That is how we can stand before the bishop and say (as any person coming into the Church must say): "I believe and profess all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God."

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