Friday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
(I Corinthians 4:1-5; Luke 5:33-39)
In today’s first reading St. Paul calls himself and other apostles “stewards of the mysteries of God.” The sacraments, especially in Paul’s time Baptism and Eucharist, are considered “mysteries.” The word “mystery” refers to both God’s incomprehensibility and the way God incorporates his people into Himself. The apostles can be considered stewards in as much as they preach about God and administer the sacraments.
Recently a case of an unfaithful administering of the sacraments was reported. After watching a video made of his baptism, a young man who had supposedly been ordained to the priesthood concluded that he was never validly baptized. The deacon, who performed the rite, said, “We baptize you in the name of the Father…”, instead of, “I baptize you …” The difference of words does matter, not just because the latter goes back to ancient times but because it indicates that Jesus, through the minister, is the one baptizing. The man had to be baptized, confirmed and given Holy Communion, all for the first time. Then, after a week’s retreat, he was validly ordained.
Paul talks about the need for a steward of the mystery to be trustworthy. The steward must faithfully carry out his responsibilities. We might say something similar for all Catholic Christians. We should learn the teachings of the Church and faithfully hand them on. It is not for us to tell others of our opinions of birth control or the Virgin birth, at least as much as our opinions conflict with Church teaching. God has sent us bishops, the apostles’ successors, to guide us to Himself. They form Church teachings from the tradition that has been handed down to them. Sometimes, regrettably, they fail to fulfill all their responsibilities. Nevertheless, they are signs of God’s love for us as are their teachings.