Sunday, September 25, 2016

Thoughts on Hardness of Heart and Fidelity

Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, 

as on the day of Massah in the desert. 

There your ancestors tested me; 

they tried me though they had seen my works. 

10 Forty years I loathed that generation; 

I said: “This people’s heart goes astray; 

they do not know my ways.” 

11 Therefore I swore in my anger: 

“They shall never enter my rest.” (Psalm 95:8–11).

In both the Old and New Testaments, the Bible speaks of hardness of heart. It is always used in the context of man rejecting God or the one God sends. This is a case of putting one’s own preference above a right relationship with God. Our Lord and, before His Incarnation, the prophets used terms like “Stiff-necked people” to castigate people for their sinful disobedience. From Moses approaching Pharaoh to the Apostle Paul speaking to his opponents, the Bible is full of examples where God’s people prefer to do what they will against God’s warnings and witness of power. Stiff-necked was a term describing a brute animal which was stubborn and defiant, unwilling to bear a yoke, and refusing to follow the command of its master. For God to direct this term against a people meant a condemnation for disobedience and a last warning before punishment and exile befell them.

Judah in Exile“Okay . . . maybe we should have listened to the warnings . . ."

It’s easy for us to roll our eyes at those Israelites or those Pharisees, or the Sanhedrin refusing to listen to those God sent. But I wonder if we realize that our own grumbling or rebellion is as serious now as it was then. Just as God sent the Prophets and then His own Son to them, He sends His Church to us. They preferred their own ways to God’s commands and we prefer our own ways to the teaching of the Church. But God does not want us to live as seems right to us. He wants us to live according to the truth, which means living according to His will because He is the Truth. 

And that brings me to my concern. Catholics profess to believe that the Church was established by Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and that the Pope and bishops in communion with Him are the successors to the Apostles. That means they have the same authority that Jesus gave the Apostles when they taught (Matthew 16:19, Matthew 18:18, Matthew 28:19, Luke 10:16). They had authority to bind and loose. When the magisterium intends to teach, we must give assent, not to undermine the authority of the shepherds. So if we seek to undermine the authority of the Church in favor of our own preferences (whether modernist or radical traditionalist or from a political point of view), we should keep in mind just how God views such behavior . . .

Rebellion of KorahSee Numbers 16:1-35

What worries me about today is how many people think they are following Jesus in opposition to the Church, or following the Church in opposition to the Pope and bishops. They refuse to consider the possibility of their own error. But when God equates loving Him with keeping His commandments (John 14:35) and gives the Church the authority to teach in His name (John 20:21-23), then it’s clear that to disobey the Church is to be a stiff-necked person.

So when people think of a remnant Church which thinks like them and would excommunicate people who think differently, instead of repenting for one’s own sins and correcting erring brethren to bring them to salvation, they might put themselves on the outside all the while thinking they are in the right. We should consider Our Lord’s warning:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Mt 7:21–23).

If Our Lord equated hearing the Church with hearing Him and said that loving Him meant doing His will, then the Catholic who seeks to undermine the legitimate authority of the Church in the name of their idealized view of what the Church should be is a rebel and not faithful. Since we are bound to obey the Church when she teaches, we must trust God to guide our Church protecting it from error, not accuse the shepherds under the headship of the Pope of falling into heresy.

Otherwise we are a hard hearted and stiff-necked people who will answer for our rebellion.

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