The Word Embodied in the Church

(Homily for Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A)

Was it just a coincidence that modern science developed in a largely Catholic milieu, or was there something about Catholicism itself that enabled the success of science? (How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization Thomas E. Wood, Jr, Ph.D.)

Jesus sent out his disciples with a new "Word" and he promised them that - in spite of much indifference and resistance - it would produce an abundant harvest. After nearly two millennia, it seems fair to ask whether this has happened. For sure we cannot know the ultimate answer, that is, the number of people saved and their degree of sanctity. Still there should be some indications inside human history.

A popular author named Thomas Woods argues that, within human history, we can see good results from the Gospel. He has written a remarkable book titled How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. Its thesis will surprise many people, including Catholics: the institutions we most cherish - hospitals, universities, science, our modern legal system and economic theory - all developed in the Middle Ages. In other words, they formed under the influence and supervision of the Catholic Church, often as a result of breakthroughs by monks and priests.

I will let you read the book yourself and I will leave it to historians to judge his thesis. However, it is interesting that in recent decades, historians have begun to give a more positive assessment of the Middle Ages. There was something about that Catholic milieu which made possible some great human achievements. The ironic part is that it happened because men sought something greater than what this world offers. They were inspired by a vision of God, of eternal life with Him. In the process they did much good for their brothers and sisters. They not only aided the sick, they built a system of hospitals. They not only defended people who were violated, they developed a new approach to individual rights. They not only promoted learning, they founded universities. They not only studied nature, they invented a method of investigation which we call "science."

I am not proposing a new triumphalism. The Catholic Church, in her human aspect, has committed many sins. We have no need to shrink from the dark side of our past - and present. Still, we can point out that Jesus´ Word - embodied in the Catholic Church - has produced a remarkable harvest, even within human history.

Our new pope, by his choice of name, has drawn attention to this positive side of Church history. St. Benedict, the founder of Western monasticism, provided an "ark" to preserve the achievements of past civilizations and to make significant advances, after a time of much chaos and confusion. The monks did this by focusing of Jesus´word and in the process built a new civilization.

The lesson for us is clear: concentrate on hearing Jesus´Word and making it known to others. God himself will bring about the harvest, in ways we cannot imagine.


Spanish Version

From Archives (for Fifteenth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2014: Life in the Spirit Week 2
2011: To Sow in Trust
2008: Power of the Seed
2005: The Word Embodied in the Church
2002: Relentless Mercy
1999: Abundance vs. Scarcity Mentality
1996: A Sower Went Out to Sow

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