Verse 19 is almost as important as verse 18 for in it Christ gave authority to Peter and his successors in His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Nearly two millenniums later this seems to have been lost on so many who seem to have a better idea. The question then we ask: "Is loyalty a thing of the past?" If we take our present society as a barometer, then the answer would have to be a resounding "yes!" If we consider the liberal factions that have arisen since Vatican II, or as some say, because of Vatican II, then the answer in ecclesiastical circles would also have to be an unequivocal "yes!" But this lack of loyalty is not generic to just this generation, it goes back to the beginning of time when our first parents Adam and Eve were disloyal to the Father; throughout the Old Testament subsversion to God's Will was rampant. In the New Testament, those who praised Jesus on Palm Sunday called for His crucifixion on Good Friday. Not the epitome of loyalty!!!
Saint Paul says in his Epistle to Titus, 2: 9-10, "Exhort servants to be obedient to their masters, in all things pleasing, not contradicting, not defrauding, but in all things showing good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God, our Savior in all things." Yet we've forgotten those wise words and challenge everything. As Americans we think we have the right question to everything and do the way we want to do things. Mental anarchy! We misquote the Constitution and hide behind it to proclaim our freedoms that we think are our right, while clamoring for the rights of those who would openly defy God's Laws through Abortion, Euthenasia, Violence, Extra-marital sex and Homosexuality. But there is a greater order that was laid down by a higher Power long ago and it still holds true today.
Our loyalty is misplaced because we don't know what to be loyal to and why we must be loyal to begin with. Blame it on the great false prophet of our day - the media. Blame it on complacency within the Magisterium of the Church in not passing on the great Deposit of Faith to younger generations. Blame it on satan! But blame is an excuse, blame is for losers and we are all winners because man is God's greatest creation. Loyalty begins and ends with God. We are all born with original sin and therefore are a weak, selfish, sinful people. In the Old Testament, God told the people what was His Will, what was right, detailing everything from the Ten Commandments to specific Jewish rituals and specifications outlined in Exodus, Numbers and Leviticus, and He expected them to obey. When they didn't, God punished His people then and there. No ifs, ands, or buts. His Justice came and the people were wiped out. Pretty severe, huh?!?
However, in the New Testament, the New Covenant given by Jesus Christ fulfilled the Old Covenant, brought it to a completeness manifested in the two great commands, "Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself" (cf. Matthew 22: 37-40, Mark 12: 31, and Luke 10:27). In this great commandment loyalty is essential; loyalty to God, loyalty to our neighbor and to ourselves as God created us to be in His image and likeness. When we take God out of the picture, loyalty goes out the window...and the world's done a pretty good job of that! When we can't even agree about the life and teachings of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and must vehemently argue every point of Scripture, then we've lost the whole meaning of why God sent His Only-begotten Son to live among us, to teach us, to live and die for us, and to be raised from the dead for us as proof of Life Everlasting. Without God at the helm, it's too easy to dissent with the teachings of the Church. History proves this theory as fact, documented in the causes and effects that led to the Protestant Revolt. Why? Because man had a better idea than God and the Magisterium of the Church failed to convey the true teachings to all. It was too easy for men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldreich Zwingli< Lefevre d'Etaples, John Wycliffe, John Huss, Henry VIII et al to dismiss the words of the Vicar of Christ, the Pope, and to rationalize that the pontiff was out of touch with the populace and the times. Sound familiar? Replace the above names with people like Andrew Greeley, Richard McBrien, Frances Kissling, Karen Armstrong, and also Cardinal Martini of Milan and his horde of like-minded ecclesiae including a too vocal block of "the-Pope's-out-of-touch" criers, liberal, humanistic, pro-women-priests-as-well-as-soft-on-abortion-and-homosexuals faction of United States bishops who strongly favor the all inclusive language and the concept of dialog with those who want to compromise the teachings of Holy Mother Church - organizations like "We are church," "Call to Action," "Catholics for a free choice" and that ilk that clamor for recognition without recognizing the true Authority of Christ's One, True Church. In November 1994 Cardinal Josef Ratzinger strongly rejected the ICEL authored New Revised Standard Version Bible and the New American Bible which the Canadian bishops had installed despite his protests. Today many bishops and laity still blatantly foist the NRSV and NAB liturgy on us. Check your parish missalettes and see if your pastor is being loyal. If not, ask him why in a loving, but firm manner. It's not majority rule. The Catholic Church is not a democracy. Parish Councils do not dictate the liturgy, the sacraments or teachings of the Church. The bishops through their appointed pastors do. We must be loyal to them as representatives appointed by the Pope, who was appointed by Christ! We cannot veer from the hierarchical order or we're in big, big trouble! The modernists have tried to sabotage everything the Holy Father has proclaimed...from his encyclicals to the translation of the Catechism to his health. Well, we think the reader gets the idea. The same atmosphere that permeated the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is prevalent today with almost the same conditions which makes it ripe for another great schism in the Church. The only difference is that the man the Holy Spirit has placed on the Throne of Peter in this critical day and age is strong and holy and will NOT COMPROMISE with those who would coerce and sabotage him. Just as Jesus refused to cower before the Pharisees or compromise with those who felt His way was too tough, so also Pope John Paul II stands alone as the one leader in today's world who will not compromise, will not wilt under the pressure of the world, the flesh and the devil. Do we truly realize what a treasure we have in our present Holy Father? Do we truly realize what a living saint we have in our midst? Do we truly realize he is one of the great Doctors of the Church in all of Church History? Do we truly realize how lost we'd be without him? God knows and that is why He deigned that the polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla would be one of the great Popes in the annals of Holy Mother Church. When the Pope speaks, the people better listen. The Pope says it, we believe it because it's Catholic doctrine, that settles it! No dialog is necessary. End of discussion! Loyalty then to the Holy Father is an absolute 'must' for all who profess to be of the Roman Catholic Faith, who profess the Nicene Creed and who profess to live this creed daily in every thought, word and deed. We, as Catholics, have been given an abundance of graces to keep us in union with God's Will, which is loyalty lived and expressed on a Divine level. Loyalty leads to respect; respect for God, for country, for neighbor, for family, and ourselves. If we don't respect human life, which God created in His Own image and likeness, then our loyalty is misplaced because we don't know who or what to be loyal to and why we must be loyal in the first place. It is we who should know better and stand up to it, to cry out as the failed Republican candidate did to hollow ears "Where is the outrage?!?" But rather than just talk the talk, we must be willing to walk the walk - to walk the way of Calvary with Christ.
It is altogether too easy to dismiss the words of Christ's Vicar on earth and to rationalize that he's out of touch, and those, who think they know better, must do their own thing in order to have a neat, orderly, sweet, comfortable life filled with worldly pleasures. Those who rebelled against the Church in the Protestant Reformation had the same opportunities but chose to veer from the true lineage of Christ by taking their own course of action, thus losing the essence of the Sacraments. Many Catholic prelates today as well as lay leaders are advocating doing their own thing because "times have changed and the Pope does not understand the American lifestyle and customs." Who really is out of touch? The Pope, who has a discerning pulse on the heartbeat of the universal Church; is guided by the Holy Spirit; and knows intuitively and through learning all that the Holy See must convey to the world? Or, those who haven't a clue as to what Christ truly meant when He gave His Vicars on earth the power to bind and loose (cf. Matthew 16: 18-19)? The truth be told, those who persist with fallacy are out-of-touch with God's Will for the Holy Father, as head of the Church, is the final authority in matters of faith and morals. These have not changed in nearly two thousand years...and they won't. When the Holy Father sets down doctrine and dogma concerning matters of faith and morals, we believe through the gift of Faith, that the Pope is speaking infallibly because He is guided in such doctrine and dogma by the Holy Spirit, Who is Truth, Who cannot lie or deceive or be deceived. It is the deceivers who are being deceived! This is the quintessence of the New Age movement. It matters not how intellectual we've become in this so-called enlightened age of ever-advancing high tech and scientific achievements. It matters not what 'scientists' theorize as to the origin of the universe, its size, age, on-going evolution. It matters not whether they have explored the realm of genetic engineering, and that we've reached an age where 'life' can be and is created in a test tube, and that we can more or less pick what we want a child to be from the moment of conception. Oh, it matters that all of the above is not only possible, but reality. It matters because none of these things are of God, for God, or from Him!!! If God is not the origin of all this, then it stands to reason that source must come from His adversary and ours: the prince of darkness! Where then does our loyalty lie? To the Almighty Who created us, Who gave us life and permits us to breathe and have our being? Or to the one who tempts us with temporal trappings that do just that, trap us? The answer to that is easy, loyalty to God must come first in our life or we're already on the wrong path and we're not going to make any headway regardless of what we do or accomplish temporally. If we don't have God, we've lost the whole purpose of life and our own existence on earth. Loyalty begins and ends with God. It respects God's ultimate authority. Loyalty recognizes the authority God has given to man, first in His Church through the Apostolic succession, and then to local leaders. Let us remember that LOYALTY is a rope whose threads connect us to the Will of the Almighty God. Those threads are composed of Loving Obedience in Yielding All Life Through our Yes!
In the next installment we will continue on this treatise of Loyalty, tying up the loose ends as we look at the tools God has given us to instill and assure loyalty to His Church in order for Holy Mother Church to enter the new millennium with hope and a renewed faith that will glorify the coming Reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.