Today’s Gospel is Jesus’ response to yet another group testing Him on His seemingly radical approach to religious practice. Many of us spend a lot of time thinking inside the structures of our faith and in many, many ways that’s a good thing; because in humble submission to the Will of God and operating within the traditions and practices of our faith’s traditions, we reign ourselves in and our traditions assist us in giving ourselves in service to God and others generously, totally and completely. I for one, would never want to “throw away” the traditions and practices of our Catholic Christian faith because the Church in her wisdom and expression offers us these things, so that we might get on with the very best part of the mission – evangelization! Joyfully proclaiming the Good News to all the world! As I celebrate Mass or hear confessions, or anoint someone or baptize someone; I see the faith alive in the people whom I minister to; a desire and thirst for Jesus. With all that said, sometimes and in certain ways we need to think outside the box and take radical approaches to things as Catholics too, otherwise we fall into the trap that the Sadducees and Pharisees do of feeling that we know it all and that our interpretation of things is the Mind of the Church. We can easily miss the truth when this happens.
Everything is not love, but if we approach our faith with love as the foundation of our lives we can’t go wrong.
I want to reflect today on tradition. First of all, it seems that those who challenge Jesus hide behind some of the “traditional” practices and this gives us a sense of where tradition can lead us astray in the practice of our faith. Far too often though, it seems “all the rage” to attack Catholic tradition and Catholics who are “traditional” because we feel they are part of what’s wrong with the “modern” Church. If this is what we think when we reflect upon today’s Gospel, this is altogether disappointing and we’ve missed the bigger picture. Although there are people who can act like the Pharisees and there are those who desire a return to more traditional things for the wrong reasons – it worries me that too many people are dismissed for their approach to their faith too quickly. I know this well because as Vocations Director, I am often challenged by the people I meet along the way “not to take in” guys who are into more traditional things namely the liturgy and might be considered “ultra-conservative” or “old-school” and typecast with other such terms. I’ve had the occasional person directly compare all such people as Pharisees. This is sad and wrong. I’ve had the occasional person whom I’ve know well enough to tell me that we need only “forward thinking” men as priests. Being a traditional Catholic is not synonymous with being backward thinking. Perhaps I get a little defensive on this point, because I am deeply inspired and proud of our seminarians and many of the men discerning. The seminarians are filled with a desire to love and serve. I see this in so many of them and in the generosity they offer the Church in the Archdiocese of Toronto. Some of them may be very appreciative of traditional liturgy and often far more versed in these things than I am. But loving and serving people comes first and we see it when they are in parishes. They put the needs of others before their own needs.
Today’s reflection is inspired by the seminarians of the Archdiocese of Toronto. As we begin our discernment groups in the next few weeks and the seminarians return to the seminary, my hope is for everyone to pray for them. They are great men, with servants’ hearts, deep love for God, His Church and His people. They need our prayers. Seminary isn’t easy, it opens up deeper and greater self-reflection for everyone which might seem easy – but it’s not. We celebrate their gifts (which are many) but they are challenged in their weaknesses and personal struggles and like the disciples on the boat on the Sea of Galilee, the ride can be pretty rough sometimes, so they need to have great hope and know the Lord is close. Their love for God and for you urges them on, day by day.