Building on Strength Week 2: Teaching Authority of Church

(Homily for Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B)

Message: Let's put into practice our belief in the teaching authority of the Church.

Note: I realize many are not in a position to do "homily series." Still, I hope you will find these homilies helpful by skipping the parts in brackets. []

[It seems hard to believe, but we are close to middle of summer. I look at these months as a less intense time, an opportunity to reflect and consolidate. With that in mind I give a review of my summer program of homilies: In June we had homilies titled "Through Him." Through Jesus we come to the Father in the Spirit. That series concluded with Jesus words: Do not be afraid; just have faith.

We now have three homilies aimed at increasing faith by building on strengths we have as a parish, then on the last Sunday of July we begin five homilies based on John, chapter 6: the Bread of Life discourse. "I am the bread of life," says Jesus, "He who comes to me will never hunger." So now we open our hearts to Jesus, Bread of Life, by recognizing strengths and thanking God for them.

Last week we saw the first strength: Your overwhelming conviction (according to the Disciple Maker Survey) that Scripture is the word of God. Today we see a closely related strength. You were asked to respond to this statement. "I personally believe in the teaching authority of the Church." 65% strongly agree; 22% agree.*]

Today's readings point to the teaching authority of the Church. Belief in that authority goes hand in hand with the conviction that the Bible is the word of God.

In fact, the Bible comes from the Church. Jesus didn't hand a Bible to the apostles and say, "This book will guide you - interpret it the best you can." No, as we hear today Jesus sent the Twelve Apostles and "gave them authority." They teach in his name and power.

To guarantee their teaching he gives them the Holy Spirit - not to come up with new teachings, but to recall what Jesus taught them and to apply those teachings to new circumstances.

It took the Church quite a while to have a complete Bible and to decide which books belong. The Bible came from the Church - that's the first way the Bible is related to her teaching authority.

There is a second relationship. Some think that once you have the Bible, you don't need the Church any more. That's not the case. To correctly understand the Bible we need the Church. Let me illustrate:

Last week I mentioned our Founding Fathers - Ben Franklin, George Washington, Charles Carroll, etc. The main book they read was the Bible - something we could imitate. But we would not want to imitate the way some of them read the Bible. Thomas Jefferson took a pair of scissors to the King James Bible and threw away the parts he didn't like. Jefferson's "Jesus" turned out bland: no miracles, no driving out demons, no denunciation of sin.

We might smile at Jefferson, alone in the White House, cutting out Bible verses he didn't like, but we can do something similar. Pope Francis refers to the " read the Gospel apart from the Gospel itself and apart from the Church." It's a dead end. To interpret the Bible correctly we need the Church.

And how do we listen to the Church? I'd like to make a comparison. You know that I love Shakespeare. When I approach his writings, I am not thinking, Do I agree or disagree? Am I comfortable with what he says? Not at all. I want to understand him, savor his words, enter his world - and from there see how he can help me make sense of the world and my place in it.**

I am sure you heard that Pope Francis wrote an encyclical on Caring for our Common Home - the environment. The media presented it in terms of various political agendas. What an impoverished approach! I invite you to read it slowly and prayerfully. Our Holy Father has much to say about how we understand God's creation and how we live our lives. Don't abandon your critical faculties, but do open yourself to God speaking through the pope - the successor of Peter.

[I am asking you to use our strength: Overall, we believe in the teaching authority of the Church. That ties with the first strength we saw last week - our conviction that the Scripture is the word of God. We have a third strength that will surprised me because we came out as the top parish! Don't miss next week's homily!]

For today let's put into practice our belief in the teaching authority of the Church. It will help us understanding where the Bible came from and how to read it. It will deepen the relationship to Jesus. It's no accident that in the Creed we not only proclaim our faith in Jesus, but then add, "I believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church." Apostolic means from the Apostles. About the Apostles (the first bishops) Jesus said, "He who hears you hears me." Amen.


*The other 12% marked "neither agree nor disagree." Catholic Leadership Institute observes: "Those who believe in the teaching authority of the Church are more likely to move from 'having a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and growing as a disciple' to 'their relationship with Jesus Christ being the most important relationship in their life.'"

**After the Gospels the work I have most read is Hamlet. More than a hundred times I've read it, listened to it, seen it on stage or film. But I have no desire to set myself up as an "interpreter" of Hamlet. I am more interested in Hamlet interpreting me!

Spanish Version

*Plan for the summer months:

June 7: Through Him Week 1: A Dynamic Presence
June 14: Through Him Week 2: How It Is With the Kingdom
June 21: Through Him Week 3: Love of Christ Impels Us
June 28: Through Him Week 4: Do Not Be Afraid, Have Faith
July 5: Building on Strength Week 1: Scripture as Word of God
July 12: Building on Strength Week 2: Teaching Authority of Church
July 19: Building on Strength Week 3: Sacrament of Reconciliation
July 26: Dimensions of the Eucharist Week 1
August 2: Dimensions of the Eucharist Week 2
August 9: Dimensions of the Eucharist Week 3
August 16: Dimensions of the Eucharist Week 4
August 23: Dimensions of the Eucharist Week 5

From Archives (15th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):

2012: The Source
2009: Repent and Pray
2006: No Money in Their Belts
2003: No Money in Their Belts (same title, different homily)
2000: About the "Right to Choose"

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