Do you think with the mind of Christ?
The Catholic Church has always claimed to teach the same doctrines taught by Our Lord JESUS Christ and His Apostles. How do we know this is the case? People often accuse the Catholic Church of having invented many of her doctrines and teachings centuries after Christ. One of the ways we know the Church teaches the same as Christ is through the Fathers of the Church. These are men who helped shape the teaching of the Church in the early years and from whom we have written testimony. Among these Fathers are men who were taught by the Apostles themselves. They are St Clement of Rome, St Polycarp of Smyrna, and St Ignatius of Antioch who was a disciple of St John the Evangelist, and whose feast we celebrated last Tuesday. In their writings they describe what Catholic teaching was from the very beginning, and we can see that what the Church teaches today is the same as it was then. It’s more developed today, but substantially it’s the same.
St Ignatius was born around 30 AD and became the third Bishop of Antioch and was appointed to this See by St Peter. He was martyred in the Colosseum, but left us seven important letters which show what the Church was teaching in those times. In these letters we have the themes that the Catholic Church is a divinely established visible society, whose end is the salvation of souls, and that those who separate themselves from it cut themselves off from God. He taught that the Catholic Church is infallible and cannot err, and that the hierarchy of the Church was instituted by Christ Himself, and that the Holy Eucharist is really and truly the Flesh and Blood of Christ. And why did Ignatius teach this? Because the Apostles taught it. When the Council of Trent made all its decrees in the sixteenth century, it was drawing upon previous councils like Nicaea (325), and Chalcedon (451), and all these councils were going back to the early Fathers, like St Ignatius of Antioch. This is how Church doctrine developed. They didn’t just make it all up. They referred back to what the Church had always taught through St Peter and St Paul, St Clement, St Polycarp, St Ignatius and many others who relayed what Christ said.
Today, there are many corrupt people in the Church who wish to change the teaching we have received from Christ and the Apostles, and there is much talk of this now in the Synod taking place in Rome, particularly in the area of morals and sexuality. In some cases, when people see this happening, they start rejoicing, saying the Church will finally be brought up to date and now we’ll be the same as everyone else, thus making it so much easier to be a Catholic! And this acceptance of the secular agenda is causing much confusion. This should disturb us, because it’s a watering down of the truth we have received from Christ and could potentially cut people off from salvation. Can people thinking like this really believe that JESUS is God, because they’re saying they don’t believe everything He taught? It’s effectively saying He’s just like us, a fallible human being. But we know that the truth doesn’t change and the truth cannot change. So what do we do?
Pray is the first thing. And we are all being called to a deeper conversion. We need to be able to recognise what the teachings of Christ are, and to be able to reject those things which are not of Christ. So we must keep our focus on Him, and be very careful not to go along with the corruption. The so-called novel ideas of today might appear to make the faith easier, or you might even agree with some of them. But the fact is, if we’re thinking something different to what JESUS thinks, we’re off track, and we need to change our thinking and pray for enlightenment.
This is a time of testing, and we need to be an example to other people – to our families, our friends, the people we work with. And as Our Lord said, “let your light shine” (Matthew 5:16) and give glory to God by it. Most people just want to get along and be like everyone else. But in our present situation, if we just try and fit in with everyone else, we’re going to be accepting the corruption and be led astray. We need to reject it, embrace the truth and live it, but always with charity and humility. It’s not a case of “I’ve got the truth and you haven’t”. Many people just don’t know any better these days, and so it’s not just the truth we need to speak. It’s also the example of charity in the way we act, and in the way we treat others. In the words of St Ignatius, “I wish not merely to be called Christian, but also to be Christian”.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC