and truth, is both reasonable and obvious. Sacred Scripture, of course, confirms in numerous places just such a plan. Jesus Christ indeed insured his ministry would continue in order for generations of the future to hear his voice:
After Simon Peter professed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt 16:17-19).
Here Christ promised to found his definite and specific Church upon St. Peter. While much confusion about the above passage from St. Matthew's gospel was introduced by the Protestant reformers and their followers in the sixteenth century -- persisting to this day -- in order to rationalize a jettisoning of the authority of the Catholic Church, it is clear that the Son of God himself instituted one Church (not "churches" nor "a church," but the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church) and placed St. Peter at her helm. If we read Scripture in its greater context, it is easy to see that using human instruments to accomplish God's will is the methodology of the Holy Trinity. From Genesis to Exodus to St. Paul to Revelation, we find that God lovingly calls his people to participate in and therefore live out his divine plan of goodness. It is in keeping with such a plan, that Jesus Christ installed Peter as leader of the Church, and sent his apostles out into the world to proclaim the gospel.
The Church Is Given The Authority To Proclaim The Truth
The Old Testament offers numerous examples in which the Divine Methodology is to install beloved servants in positions of leadership and authority over the people of God. For instance, Moses stands out in Exodus as the one who is given the authority to exercise the will of God in order to liberate the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and lead them toward the promised land. When the people complain against Moses, as happens more than once, they are in fact complaining against God himself. As a particularly relevant example, when Aaron and Miriam speak against Moses, the Lord asks them, "'Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?' And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them, and he departed; and when the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow" (Num. 12:8-10). There are consequences for challenging the authority of God's appointed leaders.
Moving to the New Covenant in Jesus Christ, we find that, again, God follows the method of installing leaders in positions of authority. A very clear example is found in the command of Jesus that refers his disciples to the authority of the Church in order to settle disputes: "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector" (Mt 18:15-17).
It is instructive to recall the fact that Gentiles and tax collectors were not looked on favorably in the days of Jesus' earthly life. Clearly, these strong words from the Son of God emphasize the necessity of free obedience to the authority of the Church, as do those recorded in Luke's gospel: "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me" (10:16). The point is, the Church is given by God the authority to proclaim the truth because Christ himself is the foundation of her life, light and mission, as we find stated at the end of Matthew's gospel in the Great Commission of the apostles:
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:18-20). Here God himself has promised to sustain his Church. Two thousand years of history in which the Church has survived the extreme forces of a hostile world and severe attacks from every possible front, shows that God's will cannot be undone.
"I know that thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of thine can be thwarted" (Job 42:2).
As Vatican II taught in Lumen Gentium (The Dogmatic Constitution On the Church), Christ "established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation through which He communicated truth and grace to all" (LG 8). The Church on earth, then, is a definite and specific Church who in virtue of her divine Founder is "the pillar and mainstay of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15). "This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him" (LG 8 § 2).
Through The Church We See Reality
In embracing Truth is found the path leading to human fulfillment. Ultimately, that is what Advent is about: opening our hearts to Christ who is Truth, that he may enter into our life and we may enter into his, that we may receive the divine love he thirsts to give, and that we may share in the supernatural life of God and thus attain to everlasting life. God's plans for his people are not small and ordinary but great and magnificent; they issue from the profound, sublime and incomparable brilliance of the fount of ineffable light that flows from the Divine Mind, and have at their foundation but one aim of sheer goodness. In order to make this wondrous plan our plan, the story of God our story, it is necessary to seek out and live by the truth. We need understand ourselves and our purpose, we need learn how to live and how to die.
Those things and more are definitively revealed only in the Word made flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ, whose purpose was to testify to the truth, and whose divine words bring life. Yet it is God's plan that we should come to know Christ and ourselves through the Church. If we wish to peer deeply into the reality in which we live, it is necessary to listen to the words of truth transmitted by the Bride of Christ, the Church whose mission is the mission of the Savior of the world. It is within the womb of the Church, a holy dwelling place and city of truth, that we gaze on Christ in the full light of truth; it is then, in this light, that we hear the Risen Lord's voice.
F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at joyintruth.com
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: advent, teaching of the church, Church, Catholic Church, fullness of truth, hearing Christ, listening to Jesus, mission of Christ, F. K. Bartels
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