March 19, 2017



Last week’s homily spoke of the earlier passage from Matthew 16 regarding Simon Peter’s great “confession of faith” and his election as the first pope. But what I did not mention was that part of that commissioning was the handing on of authority. This was given in a special way to Peter. He alone was given the “keys of the kingdom”; but it was also given to the other disciples as well (Matthew 18). This was the power and the authority to teach in matters of faith and morals—what we call the Teaching Magisterium of the Church.

There are some other passages that would seem to verify and confirm the meaning of these combined verses. Jesus also said elsewhere, “He who hears you, hears me. He who hears me, hears the One who sent me.” In another passage in John, spoken at the Last Supper, Jesus said that he had not told his disciples everything he wanted to. It would have been too much for them,  He said. But He promised to send them the Holy Spirit, who would lead them, the Church, to all truth.

The Holy Father then, in cooperation with the bishops of the Church worldwide, guides the rest of the faithful on their pilgrimage through earthly life, and to eternal life. Now this is no small task of course. As the church has grown, the complexity of steering the ship has also grown. As the faith spread throughout the world, the magisterium had to adjust to the many different types of cultures that were out there. There would, of course, be major doctrines to define, but there would also be many less important pastoral decisions to be made as well. Some examples of this might be what direction the mass is said in, or in what language, or whether or not girl altar servers are permissible, or if women have to cover their heads in church, or if we have to fast from midnight to receive communion in the morning, or, or, or. Yes, the Church fathers have had to contend with a lot of issues in the sailing of that “Barque of Peter”, called the Catholic Church.

As we see then, the Church has revised its thinking along many of these lines. But again, they have the authority to do so.

People, however, also have their opinions about the decisions that are made by the hierarchy. And they are entitled to their opinions. But sometimes their thinking is a bit narrow or biased. Maybe an example here would also be helpful. How about the proper reception of Holy Communion. My guess is that Jesus did not give the disciples communion on the tongue at the Last Supper. But at some time in history, it became the practice to receive on the tongue. And many of us grew up receiving in that fashion. Then at some point in the last 50 years, the bishops changed gears and allowed for Communion on the hand. I don’t know specifically what the reasons were but from a pastor’s perspective, and as I’ve shared with you, I have my own preferences. Now while there are always pros and cons, I personally think it’s more efficient, hygienic, and less problematic for Eucharistic minister’s to place the host in the hand. But either way is acceptable.

Today I’ve included a picture that is associated with the apparitions at Fatima. We are coming up to the 100th anniversary date in May but many people aren’t aware that an angel appeared to the children earlier to prepare them for what was about to come. The angel gave them the Eucharist. It’s not clear from the image whether they received on the tongue or in the hand. I’m presuming it was on the tongue – it would be another 50 years before the bishops would change the rule. But, remember, they had the authority! “Whatever you declare bound on earth will be bound in heaven. Whatever you declare loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16)


Many of you knew Fr. Pablo Straub. He was an EWTN television personality who visited Holy Spirit and many of our parishioners visited him and helped out at his mission in Mexico. I even met him here once when he visited. Father died some years ago, but his religious sisters will be here on Easter Sunday to sell some of their wares to raise money to help send more sisters to Pontifical University in Mexico City. Please greet them warmly.

We are getting close to the communal penance services for the Lenten season. Please check the schedules. Ours is on Monday, April 3rd.

The final Friday Stations of the Cross of the Lenten season will be a special presentation by our youth group and it will be held in our activity center.  Fr. J



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