14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
First Reading: Is 66:10-14
Second Reading: Gal 6:14-18
Gospel Reading: Lk 10:1-12, 17-20
Besides the Twelve Apostles, “the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him,” we hear in this Sunday’s Gospel Reading. Wherever they were welcomed, they were to proclaim the kingdom of God. As for any town where they were not welcomed, Jesus said, “it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.”
These words foreshadow what Jesus told the apostles just before his Ascension: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation. The man who believes in it and accepts bptism will be saved; the man who refuses to believe in it will be condemned.”
Ten days after his Ascension, Jesus sent the apostles his Holy Spirit. “By his coming, which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into the last days, the time of the Church,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In the Old Testament, those who wanted to find God had to go to Jerusalem. After God the Son became man, those who wanted to see God could look at Christ. But from now on, anyone who wants to know God in the fullness of his revelation must look to the Church, “the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit.”
“The Lord compared himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the cornerstone,” said Vatican II. “On this foundation the Church is built by the apostles and from it the Church receives solidity and unity.”
The Church is often called “the holy temple,” says the Catechism. Symbolized in churches built of stone, it is “compared in the liturgy to the holy city, the New Jerusalem.”
In this Sunday’s First Reading, therefore, we who live in “the time of the Church” can substitute “Church” for “Jerusalem.”
“Rejoice with the Church, and be glad for her, all you who love her,” we read; may you “nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast”; may you “drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom,” for the Lord extends “prosperity to her like a river,” and “it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with His servants.”
Some people say they can accept Christianity, but not the Church. They see the Church as a man-made institution that has codified, stultified, and perhaps distorted Christ’s message. They read of the simplicity and enthusiasm of the early Christians, and they compare their own local church with, perhaps, its pastor who is always late and often impatient, or its choir which is always off-key, or its organizations divided by petty jealousies.
However, Christ founded the Church, and Christ is God the Son. Nothing the Church has done or will do can take him by surprise. He saw how his own apostles failed, in both belief and practice; surely he knew how their successors would also fail. Nevertheless, he gave them his authority and entrusted to them his work of saving souls.
If he trusts the Church, surely we can.
The Catechism says Christ “established” and “sustains” the Church here on earth “as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men.”
“The Church is in history, but at the same time she transcends it,” it says. “It is only with the eyes of faith that one can see her in her visible reality and at the same time in her spiritual reality as bearer of divine life” – what St. Paul calls a “new creation.”
Perhaps St. Bernard described it most beautifully: “both tabernacle of cedar and sanctuary of God; earthly dwelling and celestial palace; house of clay and royal hall; body of death and temple of light; and at last both object of scorn to the proud and bride of Christ! ... Even if the labour and pain of her long exile may have discoloured her, yet Heaven’s beauty has adorned her.”
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