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Chapter 14



No one should feel secure in this life,
because the whole of it
is one long test.  Our only hope, our only confidence,
our only assured promise, Lord, is Your mercy.
—St. Augustine



How quickly things can change.  One minute the people are praising Jesus, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt. 21:9)  A little while later these same souls are crying out, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!” (Matt. 27:22-23)  The Bible tells us that “Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men, for he knew what was in man.” (John 2:24,25)

Who do you trust?  Do you trust yourself or somebody else?  We are all sinners, liable to error and deception, to falling and failing.  Even so, we need to trust one another as far as we can, in society generally, but especially in the family and in the Church.  When it comes to trusting other human beings, there are two extremes to be avoided—either to be gullible or to be cynical.  The gullible too easily believe and are deceived by others into following their false opinions or self-centered desires, perhaps cloaked under the appearance of good.  They take in whatever is given to them without question and, consequently, they may be taken advantage of by others, abused or misused, or simply misled even by someone with the best of intentions.  The cynical, on the other hand, question everything and believe no one.  They have only themselves to rely upon, which leaves them vulnerable to self-deception and spiritual starvation.  The truth is, we need others and others need us.  Because of our common humanity and, even more, our spiritual unity in the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, we are all in this together even when we are separated physically.  “Even if I am absent in body, yet in spirit I am with you.” (Col. 2:5)  All the good that I do is helping you, and all my sin is weighing you down.  So, “Do unto others, as you would have others do unto you.” (Matt. 7:12)  There is the Golden Rule.

  The Lord did not trust himself to anyone, because he knew their weaknesses and their sins, their ignorance and misunderstandings.  Even Peter denied him in the Passion.  And yet, we read in Sacred Scripture, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 16:18-19)  Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, entrusted to Peter and the Apostles the “keys” to the kingdom of heaven—His sacraments and wisdom, His Love and Life—even though he knew their shortcomings.  “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you all days, even to the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:19-20)  The “keys” to the kingdom of heaven continue to exist in the Catholic Church, we can trust that, even if they are sometimes buried under personal sins or failures, under spiritual immaturity, ignorance or error, under worldly bureaucracy or institutional mediocrity.  We cannot completely trust, however, any individual personally, but we do trust the Church as a whole, that Christ will protect her from formally embracing error in faith or morals.  This includes the definitive statements of the Holy Father, the successor of St. Peter, the Pope, who speaks for the whole, on those occasions, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth.” (John 16:13)  The same can be said for the formal declarations of Ecumenical (General) Councils.  So, to keep it simple, we trust the “official” teaching of the Church coming from the Magisterium, and that which is in harmony with it.  Such, for example, is the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the writings of the saints (especially, the Doctors of the Church), respectively.  Of course, we also trust the Holy Bible, rightly interpreted in light of Church teaching.  Ultimately though, it is God alone that we trust with our whole heart and soul.  We give ourselves to Him—completely and without reserve—as our Maker, Redeemer, and Friend.  As for the angels and saints in heaven, we trust them as well, though not as our end, but as helpers to the end—which is union with God.

This does not mean that we will learn everything we need to know to grow in the spiritual life from official Church teaching alone.  We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit, either directly or through others, to live and apply the teaching of the Church and the saints.  It takes divine wisdom and supernatural love to fulfill God’s will in the particular.

In general, we can trust others here below, insofar as they live in God and God lives in them by truth, charity, humility and chastity.  When Peter opposed Jesus because he wanted to save Him from suffering, Jesus opposed him and said, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are an obstacle to me, because you savor not the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matt. 16:23)  At that particular moment, Christ could not trust Peter because he was thinking with the mind of the “old man” which is supported by Satan, that mind which wants to avoid pain and pursue pleasure wherever possible, even when it is detrimental to the spiritual life and salvation.  Later, Peter would see with “the mind of Christ” that without Good Friday there is no Easter Sunday, without the cross there is no resurrection, without death to sin there is no spiritual freedom, no peace or joy in the “New Man”—Christ, the Son of God. (1 Cor. 2:16) “Rejoice inasmuch as you share in the sufferings of Christ, that you may also rejoice exultantly in the revelation of his glory.” (1 Peter 4:13)


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