Deacon Steven Johnson’s Reflection
Reflection for the 2nd Week of Easter, Thursday, 4-28-22, Year C
Readings: Acts 5:27-33, Psalm 34:2, 9, 17-18, 19-20, Gospel Jn 3:31-36
Optional Memorials: St. Peter Chanel-Priest & Martyr, St. Louis Grignion de Montfort-Priest
Theme: The Law vs. The Lord
I often think about the Church and its rules and regulations and cannot help to think sometimes that our church is not unlike the Jews and their Sanhedrin where Scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees would gather and create, review, and enforce the laws and tradition. In Jesus’ time, the Jewish faith had over 600 laws that regulated how, when, and where to worship God. The Jews became so ridged in their need for the law and tradition to be obeyed that they became indignant to the common man on the street. They puffed up themselves and strutted about thinking they were above everyone because they kept the law perfectly. They divided instead of united.
Jesus would often rebuke the Jewish leaders for their inability to apply the law in a way that brings the common man into the fold with love and mercy and to adapt those laws to the betterment of humanity in general. Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the law but rather to fulfill the law. The law is thus not destroyed but completed by Jesus in the new covenant by his death and resurrection. So, how we look at the law and deploy the law to ourselves and those we meet comes from the graces received through the Holy Spirit in the sacraments. If we listen to the Holy Spirit, He will show us the way. And who is the Holy Spirit? God Himself.
Today we see the debate in the Church about whether Vatican II, the last Vatican Council to be convened, convocated by Pope John XXIII and concluded by Pope Paul VI, was a prompting of the Holy Spirit or man. Vatican II changed the way we do things within the Church today. There are many people on both sides of this debate that cannot be addressed in this reflection. Of the many debates regarding the four constitutions and nine decrees of Vatican II, the most notable is the change between The Latin Rite of the Mass (TLM) and the new Novus Ordo mass (NOM) we have today which came out of the Vatican II Council. Do we stick with TLM instituted by Pope Pious V in 1570 or NOM instituted by Pope Paul VI in 1969? By Church law NOM is the lawful Mass to be offered, but many feel that the change from TLM was one decided by man and thus was not of the Holy Spirit in 1969. Many refuse to accept NOM and continue to practice TLM either openly or secretly.
I mention Vatican II only as an example and correlation to the debates of the law and practices of Jesus’ time and those of our own today. The apostles had to debate the Sanhedrin on the merits of Christ’s new covenant vs. the existing laws and practices of the Jews. Today the Holy Spirit, through many holy people (ordained or lay), debate the Church in its many practices and laws.
In the end, it comes down to Jesus and what He taught. Whether TLM or NOM best represents Jesus’ teachings and reverence for Him really comes down to the Love of God and Love of neighbor. If we push people away from the Church because of our rigid application of laws and traditions, we are not meeting Jesus’ teachings. If we push people away because of a lack of reverence and secular ideals and practices, we are not meeting Jesus’ teachings. The answer lies somewhere in the middle. We must trust in the Holy Spirit to continue to guide us.
Jesus speaks the words of His Father and does not ration His gift of Spirit. Jesus did not discount those who did not practice their faith in a specific way but unified them into His simple rule of love for God first and neighbor second, and thus, we shouldn’t either. If we get caught up in debating laws and traditions, we may need to step back and look at the bigger picture and ask ourselves, “are we uniting each other to Christ for eternal life or dividing each other and losing souls?”
May the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you always!