Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Homily for the Twenty First Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, Matthew 16, 13-20

Above is an image of a fresco in the Sistine Chapel Perugino entitled "Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter" (1480-81).

In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 16, Peter professes his faith in Christ. Jesus gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mt. 16, 19) The keys are a symbol of authority. Thus Peter is given full, supreme authority over the whole Church. Because the Church will last until the end of time, this authority will be passed on to Peter’s successors throughout history. Since Peter died while leading the Church in Rome, it is the Bishop of Rome who is Peter’s successor.

The scene of the Gospel is Caesarea Philippi. This is significant since it is there that from a massive rock a spring flows. This spring is the beginning of the Jordan River giving life to the valley below. It is symbolic of the teaching that comes from St. Peter giving instruction and life to the Church.

The First Vatican Council taught that it was divinely revealed teaching that the Pope “when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when acting in the office of shepherd and teacher of all Christians, he defines, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, possesses through the divine assistance promised to him in the person of St. Peter, the infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to be endowed in defining doctrine concerning faith and morals; and that such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are therefore irreformable because of their nature…”

The guarantee of truth is not because of the personal qualities of any particular Pope. Instead, it is the way Jesus fulfills his promise that the Holy Spirit would remain with the Church and guide it in the way of truth.


In recent years, the Church's Magisterium has spoken more frequently in defense of the sacredness of human life. This is because so many consciences have been darkened, claiming prerogatives, such as a “right to choose” which belong only to God. Many in our society have lost a sense of the magnitude of the sin of the direct taking of all innocent human life, especially at its beginning and at its end.


In his Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II used his authority as the Successor of St. Peter to declare “by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”


The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity. "Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action".


Pope Benedict XVI has followed in the footsteps of his predecessors St. Peter and Pope John Paul II as he did recently when he visited Yankee Stadium in New York and urged us to “respect the inalienable dignity and rights of each man, woman and child in our world --- including the most defenseless of all human beings, the unborn child in the mother's womb.”


Jesus said “”Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." (Luke 10, 16)

Let us heed the words of the successors of the apostles in our time and defend the lives of innocent human beings who are in danger of death.

1 comment:

Dale said...

Fr. West, I just wanted to send a special thank you for apeaking last week at my parish, St. Mary of Czestochowa, in New Kensington. Your work, effort and time devoted to the preservation of life during its most vulnerable stages are truly inspirational. In seeking out a way to contact you, I stumbled across your blog and can assure you that I will be frequent viewer. God bless you.