Catholicism, Faith, Scripture

Listening to the Apostles

I feel like blogging but I don’t feel much like thinking. The light above my desk is particularly bothersome today. It seems brighter than usual, glaring off my screen and making me wish I could close my eyes… or at least wear a dorky visor cap.

Over the weekend, I decided to begin reading the catholic letters of the New Testament. I’ve read them all before, but in pieces and for various reasons, never straight through and with a single mindset for all seven of them. The ones I’m referring to are the Letter of St. James, the Letter of St. Jude, the 2 Letters of St. Peter, and the 3 Letters of St. John. They’ve come to be known as the catholic letters, as in, written for the universal church (the word catholic means universal), as a way to distinguish them from St. Paul’s letters and the Letter to the Hebrews which are written to more specific groups or individuals. This term is not intended to separate them as Catholic vs Protestant. St. Paul was Catholic, folks. All Christians were Catholic during the time of the New Testament writings and for centuries upon centuries afterward.

The nature of my faith and life in the Church as apostolic has been on my mind. Every time I recite the Creed, I declare that I believe in an apostolic Church. The heritage of the Church, with its ordained bishops and priests able to trace themselves back to the original Apostles, and its teachings arising from the earliest days of the Christianity and never departing from the teachings of Christ and the Apostles (developing in understanding, yes, but departing, no), this heritage is immensely important and wonderful. There is such security in it; security in truth. So I greatly value the apostolic Church, but do I recognize the need for my own faith, the way I understand it and live it, to be apostolic as well? This question reaches me from two angles. One is that I am to be rooted in the apostolic teachings, never weakening or compromising the fullness of truth for my own convenience, but taking full advantage of the deposit of faith that was entrusted to the Church by Christ and passed down faithfully over generations by the Apostles and their successors. Two, I mustn’t forget that to be an apostle one must be sent out on a mission. The switch between disciple and apostle came when the men were commissioned by Jesus to go into the world and preach the Gospel and build up the Church. They are no longer only followers of Christ but also emissaries of His teachings and life. The Church is apostolic in both of these ways (faith & mission), and the Church is made up of its members. The members must be apostolic in both ways too. I must be apostolic.

So as all this inhabits my thoughts and challenges my heart, I figure a good place to start is with the catholic letters. What did the apostles want to say to the Church in those first decades of Christianity? That same Church is the one of which I am a member, the one that provides me with the Sacraments and the fullness of truth, so I would gain much by listening to those first ministers of the Sacraments and teachers of the truth.

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