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THE CHURCH TODAY IS LIKE A BOAT TOSSED ABOUT ON A STORMY SEA
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Saturday, Second Week of Easter, April 14, 2018
Acts 6:1-7, Psalm 32, John 6:16-21


Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

"When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea rose because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat. They were frightened, but he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.' Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going" (John 6:16-21).


Today Jesus' disciples are alone in a boat on a stormy sea at night, and Jesus is not with them. He had remained behind in the hills to pray (Mark 6:46). Then, in the fourth watch of the night (Mark 6:48), that is, between 3 AM and 6 AM, Jesus comes walking toward them on the sea, and they are frightened. He tells them, "It is I; do not be afraid" (John 6:20), and they happily take him into the boat. Then they arrive to where they were going, and all is well.


The Church is often compared to a boat tossed about at night in a storm at sea, shipping much water and threatening to sink, while the people of God in the boat are terrified. Today not even Jesus is with them in the boat. Yet he comes to them in a most unexpected way, walking on the surface of the sea. When they gladly receive him into the boat, all is well, and immediately the boat comes ashore where they wanted to be. Once again after this terrible storm, they are at peace. The boat is safe, Jesus is with them, and the wind has ceased (Mark 6:51).


We, as the Church, are in a boat today, and we are going through a mighty storm. What is causing this storm? It is caused by many Church leaders who are now telling us that the clear moral norms of good and evil are no longer clear and no longer apply to everyone. We are now being told by some highly placed Church leaders that everyone has to decide for himself what is right and wrong for him, and that this decision that takes place within the conscience of each person will be the will of God for that person. We are being told that this is how God is now revealing his will and his moral law to each individual, a law custom-made to fit each person.


We are also being told that God can reveal to someone that the good thing that God now wants him to do is to break God's own scripturally revealed moral law, and that if the person does this, he will please God, will be doing his will, and will be growing thereby in sanctity.


The examples usually given are adultery and fornication. We are being told by progressive Church leaders at the very highest levels of the Church that even though adultery and fornication are forbidden by God's scripturally revealed moral law, God may nonetheless call some individuals, in some cases, due to the complex circumstances of their life, to break his moral law against adultery or fornication. Then we are told that if it is God who is calling us to break his own moral law, it is not a sin for us to break it, but rather it is doing God's will for us, for God is the one who is now leading us to break his own moral law.


Then they say that this is the new way, which God is now revealing through these progressive Church leaders, to grow in virtue and holiness, for the key to growing in holiness is to do God's will.


This new way is the way of discernment and accompaniment, they say. According to them, we are now to be pastorally accompanied by an up-to-date priest who is well informed about this new path of discernment and accompaniment, and he will help us to discern and decide whether or not God is calling us in our conscience to follow or to break his revealed moral law.


Then we are told that if we can come to the point in this accompanied discernment process that we finally feel at peace in our conscience that God now wants us to break his revealed moral law (which is also the natural law) and commit adultery or fornication or live in a constant state of adultery or fornication, then that is what we should do, and we should feel assured that this is God's will for us in our particular complex life situation.


Furthermore, we are now being told that the accompanying priest is to respect the conscience of the person he is helping and that he should agree with this person and tell him that he has made the correct decision, and the priest should confirm this person's decision as God's will for him and as his way of growing in holiness.


Probably many of you who are reading this and who have not been following very closely recent developments in Church teaching will think that I am just making all of this up out of my own head, because it sounds so far out, preposterous, and utterly scandalous, or you will think that I am at least greatly exaggerating what certain progressive Church leaders may now be saying. I certainly agree with you that this does sound far out, preposterous, and scandalous. But unfortunately this really is what is actually being taught in the Church today by a number of highly placed Church leaders.


The truth is that this new teaching is not an authentic development of Church doctrine, nor is it authentic Magisterium, nor is it authentic Church teaching, for the simple reason that it is a complete contradiction of the clear teaching of Scripture and of traditional Church teaching and practice throughout the entire history of the Church. To be authentic Magisterium a teaching must agree with - not contradict - Scripture, and agree with - not contradict - traditional Church teaching and practice throughout her history.


The truth is that God's absolute moral law and commandments (Thou shalt not commit adultery) always oblige everyone in every situation without exception. These commandments and this moral law are the clear revelation of God's will for everyone in all situations without exception. There is no room for accompanied discernment in this matter. Adultery and fornication are always gravely sinful and wrong for everyone in every situation and circumstance. There is no room here for discerning whether these commandments are right or wrong for you. It is always wrong for you and for everyone in every situation without exception to break these commandments.


The only room for accompanied discernment in this matter is to help an adulterer or a fornicator to see the evilness and sinfulness of his life and to help him to repent and amend his life by bringing it into accord with God's revealed will for him, which is to strictly follow his moral law in all cases and circumstances without exception.


Nonetheless, many of our high Church leaders are misleading us today with this new false teaching, and most of the bishops of the world are remaining shockingly silent. So in many ways the Church today is like a boat tossed about at night by the wind and the waves on a stormy sea.


But those who ground their life and understanding on the sure foundation of Scripture and on the authentic Magisterium and traditional teaching and practice of the Church throughout her two-thousand-year history will be at peace, because Jesus calms the storm for them and is present with them in the boat to guide and comfort them. They are not confused, for they know clearly what God's will is in this matter, what the teaching of Scripture is, and what the authentic Magisterium of the Church teaches on this matter.

 

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