Unity in Truth
St Paul in today’s Second Reading (1 Corinthians 15:1-11) is very worried about the divisions in the Church at Corinth.
“Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.”
It is clear from what Paul says that this gospel is something that he has received and then he hands it over. He doesn’t get to pick and choose what he thinks the tradition is. And he goes on to expound the articles of faith – that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to the Apostles, and then to five hundred other people at the same time. It sounds remarkably similar to the Apostles’ Creed. Many scholars think Paul here is echoing an early creedal formula that was already circulating in the Church. But Paul emphasises here the Resurrection because some of the people in Corinth were denying the Resurrection of Our Lord from the dead.
Divisions are always a threat to the Church and we see that very clearly today, particularly over the liturgy and also over sexual issues. But Our Lord knew there would be divisions, and that because of our fallen human nature it would be hard to stay united. This is why He gave us the Magisterium or the teaching authority of the Church. And St Paul here uses this teaching authority to solve the crisis of belief in Corinth: “The gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you…What matters is that I preach what they [the Apostles] preach, and this is what you all believed.”
According to Pope St John Paul II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a “safe standard for the doctrine of the faith”. The Catechism was written to strengthen the Faith of those whose belief has been weakened by the relativistic society in which we live. We cannot be ‘cafeteria Catholics’, picking and choosing to believe the bits we like while rejecting other truths revealed by God. If we do this we simply make up our own religion. “Oh, but I like to think for myself. It cramps my freedom” people say. But no, this is false. The opposite is true. Freedom is in the truth. Our Lord said “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Which is freer to arrive safely at harbour? The boat guided by a lighthouse, or the boat guided by the moods and whims of the captain? The answer is obvious! The Church teaches us the truth about faith and morals with Christ’s authority to help us get to Heaven. And the job of the Pope and the Bishops is to protect that Deposit of Faith (Depositum fidei) that has been handed down from Christ and the Apostles, and then to faithfully hand it on in its undiluted beauty and purity. If anyone contradicts what has always been taught, we must reject it as not being of God, because God does not change and God cannot lie, but the devil does lie and is constantly seeking to lead us astray.
Let us thank God for the Magisterium of the Church which protects our Faith, and make an effort to study this great treasure of teaching so as we become experts in Christ. A great place to begin is the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC