As I travel once again around the diocese this week, and listen to many people regarding our hopes and dreams for our future, I hear many challenges, and many good things which give me great hope! As the readership of this blog knows, one “theme” very much on my mind these days is the New Evangelization.
One challenge before us today is to help people once again make the connection between Christ and the Church. There are many who claim to be Christian and Catholic, but see little need for organized religion. For us as Catholics, we believe very strongly that the two are inseparable; Christ and His Church!
There is plenty of evidence to this belief. We can look to the life of Jesus as well as to the Scriptures to trace this connection. First and foremost, we believe that Jesus is the Son of God. This we know from the announcement of His birth and later from His baptism and transfiguration when the voice from heaven is heard to say: This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.
From His birth, he is associated with the “temple” when Mary and Joseph according to custom take Him to the temple for the Presentation. Here, once again, Simeon proclaims His identity as the One Who comes to make salvation known. As a young child, Jesus “goes to the temple” to make clear again His personal identity and association “with His Father’s house”. We could go further with such examples, but I think this makes the point.
The greatest association comes when St. Peter proclaims his faith in Jesus (John 6) when others are leaving Him as a result of His teaching on the Eucharist. When asked by Jesus: “Peter, will you, too, leave me?” St. Peter responds: “Master, to whom else shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
It is upon this faith of Peter that Christ says in Matthew’s Gospel: Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17-19)
From today’s readings, we have further references to the “temple”. First, from the Book of Revelation, we have a vision of the end times. This vision associates “heaven” with the “temple”: another angel came from the temple in heaven. Again, in today’s Gospel from Luke, Jesus makes reference again to the temple: All that you see here (the temple) – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down. (Luke 21:5-11) Here, Jesus makes a powerful association not just with the “temple”, but is claiming to become the “place of worship in His person” for the rest of eternity.
Jesus, may we always remain one with You, and Your Church!