Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pope St. Callistus I

The most reliable information about this saint comes from his enemy St. Hippolytus, an early antipope, later a martyr for the Church. A negative principle is used: If some worse things had happened, Hippolytus would surely have mentioned them. Callistus was a slave in the imperial Roman household. Put in charge of the bank by his master, he lost the money deposited, fled and was caught. After serving time for a while, he was released to make some attempt to recover the money. Apparently he carried his zeal too far, being arrested for brawling in a Jewish synagogue. This time he was condemned to work in the mines of Sardinia. He was released through the influence of the emperor's mistress and lived at Anzio (site of a famous World War II beachhead). After winning his freedom, Callistus was made superintendent of the public Christian burial ground in Rome (still called the cemetery of St. Callistus), probably the first land owned by the Church. The pope ordained him a deacon and made him his friend and adviser. He was elected pope by a majority vote of the clergy and laity of Rome, and thereafter was attacked by the losing candidate, St. Hippolytus, who let himself be set up as the first antipope in the history of the Church. The schism lasted about 18 years. Hippolytus is venerated as a saint. He was banished during the persecution of 235 and was reconciled to the Church. He died from his sufferings in Sardinia. He attacked Callistus on two fronts—doctrine and discipline. Hippolytus seems to have exaggerated the distinction between Father and Son (almost making two gods) possibly because theological language had not yet been refined. He also accused Callistus of being too lenient, for reasons we may find surprising: (1) Callistus admitted to Holy Communion those who had already done public penance for murder, adultery, fornication; (2) he held marriages between free women and slaves to be valid—contrary to Roman law; (3) he authorized the ordination of men who had been married two or three times; (4) he held that mortal sin was not a sufficient reason to depose a bishop; (5) he held to a policy of leniency toward those who had temporarily denied their faith during persecution. Callistus was martyred during a local disturbance in Trastevere, Rome, and is the first pope (except for Peter) to be commemorated as a martyr in the earliest martyrology of the Church.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (11.42-46)

Jesus said, Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practised the latter without leaving the former undone. Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the market-places. Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it. One of the experts in the law answered him, Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also. Jesus replied, And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. (Luke 11:42-46)

(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

Our Lord begins His words in today’s passage with a woe. There are four woes (Greek: ouai). The woe suggests a grieving because of the judgment to come. Our Lord uses this word earlier in the Gospel when, having designated the Twelve, the whole multitude gathers before Him. In that earlier chapter (ch.6), Our Lord utters His beatitudes and His woes, a much briefer form of what St Matthew reports at the beginning of his presentation of the Sermon on the Mount. He speaks to His disciples (Luke 6:20), telling them that they are blessed when they are poor, when they hunger, when they are sorrowful and when they are hated because of Him. Then He turns to those whose life consists of seeking riches, being full of all they want, having a life of pleasure and laughter and being adulated by the world. Woe to you, He repeats four times: ouai! You are living to yourselves. You are heading towards the judgment of God. Having pronounced this multiple woe, Our Lord then goes on immediately to command a loving service of others. To you who hear, He continues, love your enemies, bless them, offer the other cheek, give to all who ask, do to others as you would want done to you. Be merciful and do not judge. It is clear that the woe pronounced by Our Lord is a terrible warning to those who do not love God and serve their neighbour. In our Gospel today, which is from a later chapter (ch.11), Our Lord again pronounces a woe. Three times He lays a woe on the Pharisees and once on the lawyers - but two more woes are to be pronounced on the lawyers in following passages of this chapter. Let us consider, then, the woe pronounced on the Pharisees of our Gospel passage today. You Pharisees fiddle and tinker with mint, rue and all kinds of garden herbs and make such things the centrepiece of your religion. Yet you neglect the Judgment and the Love of God. Notice the word, “Judgment” (Greek: krisin) - in many versions rendered as “justice.” Our Lord is referring to what the Judgment (krisin) will be all about: man’s practice of justice. Our Lord is saying that they neglect both the practice of justice towards others and love for God. This concise statement by Our Lord sets before us how central to the Divine Judgment will be the practice of justice. The Pharisees neglected the judgment, which is to say, what will dominate the Judgment of God. In the twenty fifth chapter of St Matthew, Our Lord describes in grand and vivid detail the General Judgment on mankind. It is remarkable how much will depend on our practice of justice during life. One of the most notable features of religion in the history of mankind is the degree to which the observance of ceremony has dominated religion. The gods are placated and won over by the due and careful observance of the ceremonies. Thereby they feel honoured. But revealed religion has a remarkable stress on justice. The prophets are singular in their denunciation of a religion of ceremonies that neglects the needs and the rights of others, most especially the poor. This, of course, must in no way to be understood as a dismissal of formal and wholehearted worship, for the prophets and the entire Scriptures stress in great detail the centrality of worship. Our Lord vigorously cleansed the Temple. It is the focus of the Third Commandment. But worship and ceremony is utterly vitiated when there is a callous indifference to those in need. If we aspire to love God - as we must, for it is the very first commandment - then we must aspire to love and serve others. The implication of much of Our Lord’s Teaching is that it is justice which is in constant danger of being neglected. So important is this that at the General Judgment, Christ Our Judge will say to us that when we served the least we were serving Him, when we neglected the least we were neglecting Him. The Pharisees were neglecting the Judgment, because they were neglecting the practice of justice which will be the centrepiece of the Divine Judgment. In this, they were neglecting the love of God. “These,” - the judgment and the love of God - “you ought to have done, while not leaving the other undone” (Luke 11:42-46). The first three of the ten commandments direct our lives to the love and veneration of God, both individually and together as God’s family. The remaining seven commandments direct our lives to the practice of justice towards others and towards ourselves. The love of God must be shown in the practice of justice. There will be no love without justice. Nor, of course, will there be true justice without love and mercy. Let us beware of being like the Pharisees in our religion, for God wants a religion of the heart, a heart given over to Him and manifested in our love for those around us.

No comments:

Post a Comment