Readings for Friday, September 17/
St. Robert Bellarmine:
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
The scriptures were right – there is nothing new under the sun. In the course of the past two months that I’ve been leading the Bible study here on Thursday nights, it has been shown how again and again the Israelites made the same mistakes. Being the spiritual descendents of the Jewish people, the Catholic faithful follow in a very similar path as the Jews. Over and over again, we encounter the same problems. And over and over again, we respond in the same fashion.
In the first reading we encounter Saint Paul writing to the Corinthians on account of some who had begun to reject the teaching of the resurrection of the body. They thought that they could simply take the teachings they wanted and reject the other teachings with no consequences. Saint Paul, however, responds to this first generation of what we call today cafeteria Catholics not by saying ‘you have to believe it!’ but rather by showing them that if they reject the reality of our resurrection, then it follows that they must reject Christ’s resurrection, and if they reject that then they and everyone else are still in sin and are the most foolish people for thinking otherwise. He shows them that beliefs are not to be taken or left without consequence but are deeply connected and intertwined. To reject one belief is to weaken the whole system.
St. Robert Bellarmine, whose memorial we celebrate today, encounter the same problem 1500 years later as he fought on countless fronts to defend the Catholic faith from dissidents, those who wanted like the Corinthians to take only parts of the faith. He too knew the interconnectedness of the Catholic faith and was such a great defender of it that he was named the patron of catechists.
As I said at the beginning though – there is nothing new under the sun. Even today we experience these same situations, people accepting some teaching but rejecting others without casting a second thought on it. Thankfully we have in Pope Benedict another great name in the list of many who have seen the interconnected nature of the Catholic faith and who seek to show the world that one cannot simply accept only bits and pieces but must embrace the whole of the deposit of faith. Some of you may know that Pope Benedict is in England right now on a state visit and that there is much conflict because of it. Because he stands up for the Catholic faith and encourages everyone else to cling to the Truth that is Jesus Christ, he experiences a lot of persecution from the secular realm. And yet, he goes there boldly to once again preach this message that has been preached for 2000 years – the Catholic faith is a single deposit of faith and that all of the pieces come together as a body and so each part much be honored. As we continue through this day, take a moment to pray for Pope Benedict, that he will continue to be a light of Christ to the world by his words and witness and pray that those to whom he is speaking will have open hearts and that his words and presence will bear much fruit for the Church in England.