Father Jerry J. Pokorsky: The Church continues to carry Christ’s saving words to the ends of the earth, despite Judases close to the heart of the Church who abuse their holy offices.
Many Catholics (though enjoying the virtues of a Catholic upbringing) learn to reject the Church that formed their ethics. They profess “complicated” reasons for the rejection. But it usually comes down to one thing.
The famous Dr. Anthony Fauci told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that practicing the Catholic faith is a “thing that I don’t really need to do.” He said he doesn’t practice the faith for a “number of complicated reasons. First of all, I think my own personal ethics on life are I think enough to keep me going on the right path. And I think there are enough negative aspects about the organizational Church,” he continued. He noted that the BBC reporter was “very well aware” of these things, without naming them. “I’m not against it. I identify myself as a Catholic. I was raised, I was baptized, I was confirmed, I was married in the Church. My children were baptized in the Church. But as far as practicing it, it seems almost like a pro forma thing that I don’t really need to do.”
“Complicated”? Not really. Dr. Fauci continues the tradition of apostasy.
Just for fun, let’s imagine this scenario: Archeologists recently uncovered a scroll from the desert sands that reported an apostasy from the Jewish faith during the time of Christ. In an imaginary interview with the Talmudic Globe, Simon Bar Levi, a prominent doctor from the elegant suburbs of Caesarea, reveals that he no longer practices the Jewish faith. Although he was circumcised and had all (well, most of) his children circumcised, he said he no longer attends the Sabbath worship of local synagogues.
His objections to Jewish “organized religion,” he explains, “are known to everyone.” He said the Pharisees are hypocrites because “they do not practice what they preach.” He adds, “They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long and have become the center of attention in the synagogues.”
Many Jews share the same objections. Murmurs concerning the alleged corruption of the high priests are rampant. The selection of Caiaphas has come under scrutiny because of his close association with the Roman occupiers. One critic observes that Caiaphas is too friendly with Pontius Pilate and has failed to discipline King Herod, who self-identifies as a Jew.
The Globe reporter reminds readers of the repeated infidelities over the history of the Chosen People. As Moses conversed with the Lord, they worshiped the golden calf. The great King David committed adultery and used murder to cover his crime. They sacrificed babies to the demon Moloch in the Valley of Gehenna. Simon Bar Levi confesses he cannot be associated with “a religion that, except for a prophet here and there, is stained with these sordid events.” He adds, “The least they could do is to sanitize their religious texts.”
In other news, a powerful preacher has appeared on the scene with a message of repentance. John – known as the Baptist – seems to echo some of the concerns of Bar Levi. He labels the Pharisees as a “brood of vipers” and warns them about the “wrath to come.” But unlike Bar Levi, He preaches a baptism of repentance because, he explains, “the kingdom of God is at hand.”
With coarse camel-hair garb, John is fearless. He reminds King Herod that it wasn’t lawful for Herod to marry his brother’s wife. According to unconfirmed reports, Herod’s wife, Herodias, is furious. The Pharisees dismiss John as “rigid” and “divisive.” But many have become John’s followers.
You get the idea.
Here is the news you didn’t hear. Ann and Joachim were practicing Jews. They said their prayers, recited the Psalms, and read the Law and the Prophets. They abided by the Sabbath and worshiped in the synagogue and Temple. They heard the confused words of a few young rabbis and the weary admonitions of elderly teachers, but they remained faithful to the Covenant. Mary was born to them.
Mary also grew up with Jewish piety. God sent the Angel Gabriel to her and revealed that she would bear Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. She responded with the fidelity of a good Jew: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Lk. 1:38)
Her Son Jesus gathered disciples unto Himself, above all the Twelve Apostles. During His time of trial, one betrayed Him. The rest abandoned Him, with only John the Beloved Disciple returning to join His mother at the foot of His Cross. After His glorious Resurrection from the dead and Ascension into Heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit upon His mother and His disciples. On Pentecost, the Catholic Church was born.
His Church continues throughout history to carry His saving words to the ends of the earth. Among the members of the Church are those who are like Mary in her innocent virtue, Peter in his erratic fidelity, John the Beloved in his love, the Pharisees in their religious excesses, the blind, and the lepers in need of the healing touch of Jesus. And there is a Judas, or two, or three – close to the heart of the Church who abuse their holy offices.
The current chaos in the Church is not unlike that found in the Scriptures. The remnant of the Chosen People remained faithful during the Babylonian Exile, during the repeated periods of rebellion, and the Roman occupation. Just as God guaranteed the ongoing survival of His Chosen People (cf. Hosea), Jesus promises the survival of the Church: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the [gates of hell] shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18) And so, it must be for us.
Not long ago, an elderly woman called me to her bedside. She apologized for disrupting my busy schedule. She was dying. But she said she hadn’t received Communion for weeks. She could no longer delay. I recited the prayers, delivered Jesus in Holy Communion, and left that room invigorated in spirit, with my priesthood validated.
The Catholic faith isn’t complicated and comes down to one Thing: Jesus.
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Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky
Father Jerry J. Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. He is pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Great Falls, Virginia.
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