For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19

I said last month that I would begin with this quotation from Ephesians because I wasn’t completely at peace with how I approached the topic of our moral lives and its relationship to Holy Communion. This quote from Ephesians and especially the last line expresses something about the mystery of the Christian life that is necessary for us to realize in our life if we are ever going to properly understand the teachings of our Church and why they matter.

One of the problems with trying to discuss topics like abortion, sexual sin, or other ethical issues is that we live in a secular, humanistic, culture today that provides very little support for living the type of lives our Church calls upon us to live. For many, the life and the culture of the Church is no longer the main force that shapes our lives.  It is this secular, humanistic culture that is now shaping the way many of us think or live. As priests, we try and present a rational argument quoting scripture, church fathers, or church canons to explain why something is right or wrong. That is what I did in last month’s letter to you. The problem with this approach is two fold. One is that you can easily get into a game of mental gymnastics with someone, quoting scripture, canons, and church fathers. Someone else may counter back with arguments quoting their favorite scriptures, and church sources.  Thus we end up arguing seeking to justify our position. We stop listening to what the other has to say. The goal of dialogue on matters of faith is to seek the Truth and remain faithful to the Teaching our Lord Jesus Christ passed onto the Apostles. 

The other problem is that if one’s life is no longer being shaped by the culture and life of the Church, it is not going to matter what scriptures or church sources you cite to make your point because you may be talking to someone who has “ears to hear, but can’t hear,” and “eyes to see, but can’t see.” In a recent sermon I mentioned that when Jesus healed people who were blind, the real healing that took place besides the physical, was a spiritual healing. The blind man in John Chapter 9, and the blind man in Luke Chapter 18, sees Jesus for who he really is, the coming Messiah as prophesized in the Old Testament. These men have spiritual eyesight and worship Jesus as God come in the flesh. Meanwhile the religious leaders of the time who have knowledge of the Scriptures are spiritually blind and don’t see Jesus as who He really is. Our Church Teaching is that the Truth is not embodied in a philosophy, a moral code, or a law. It is embodied in a person. Jesus tells us in Chapter 14 of the gospel of John, “I Am the Way the Truth, and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by Me.” He tells the leaders of the synagogue in Chapter of 5 of the same gospel, “You search the Scriptures for in them you have eternal life, and it is they that bear witness to Me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” We need to have healthy spiritual eyesight if we are ever going to comprehend the importance of this Truth! This brings me back to the quote from Ephesians 3:14-19 that I began with.

Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus (and for the church in Rossford) is to “be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,” that “Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith,” and that we may be filled with “all the fullness of God.” He also tells believers in the church at Corinth ‘“who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.’ (1 Corinthians 2:16) In order to accept and understand Church Teaching on how we are to live our moral lives and why, we first need to know Christ, and find fulfillment in this relationship. Unless we “have the mind of Christ” and constantly pray for His fullness to abide in us, no scripture quotations, or canon citations will ever hit the spot in helping us to understand why the Church calls us to live in a certain way.

Take care, Fr. Paul