good-shepherd

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and flieth: and the wolf catcheth, and scattereth the sheep: And the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling: and he hath no care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know mine, and mine know me. As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father: and I lay down my life for my sheep. And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.

I realised this Sunday that the Good Shepherd discourse of John 10 is addressed to the Pharisees. One does not, I suppose, generally notice this because of the chapter division. The context is provided in 9:39-41 “And Jesus said: For judgment I am come into this world; that they who see not, may see; and they who see, may become blind. And some of the Pharisees, who were with him, heard: and they said unto him: Are we also blind? Jesus said to them: If you were blind, you should not have sin: but now you say: We see. Your sin remaineth.” The text then moves straight into the Good Shepherd discourse. One imagines this is a new incident but in fact there is no reason for this other than the chapter division which is not original. This vital context is obscured by the Novus Ordo lectionary which prefaces the reading beginning at 10:11 with “Jesus said…”. In the traditional Roman Rite however, the reading is introduced with the words “At that time Jesus said to the Pharisees…”. On 24th April 2005, at the Mass of his inauguration as Pope, Pope Benedict said:

One of the basic characteristics of a shepherd must be to love the people entrusted to him, even as he loves Christ whom he serves. “Feed my sheep”, says Christ to Peter, and now, at this moment, he says it to me as well. Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer. Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of God’s truth, of God’s word, the nourishment of his presence, which he gives us in the Blessed Sacrament. My dear friends – at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more – in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will learn to carry one another.

Of course the great mystery of our time is why Pope Benedict did in the end (as it seems and most certainly feels) abandon us. I fear that, on the most fundamental level, his recent interview on the (non)necessity of faith tells us why. In Matthew 23:15 Our Lord says “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you go round about the sea and the land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, you make him the child of hell twofold more than yourselves.” At first glance this seems rather in contrast to the Pharisee of John 10 who is a hireling who “seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and flieth”. Can we really imagine such a one going “round about the sea and the land to make one proselyte”? We all know that Pope Francis holds that “proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense.” But then Pope Francis has also taught (in his last non-magisterial exhortation) that “Non-Christians, by God’s gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live justified by the grace of God, and thus be associated to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ”. So it makes sense that he would think the preaching of the Gospel to be solemn nonsense.

In his recent interview Benedict XVI declared with refreshing honesty,

[T]he great missionaries of the 16th century were still convinced that those who are not baptized are forever lost — and this explains their missionary commitment — in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council that conviction was finally abandoned. From this came a deep double crisis. On the one hand this seems to remove any motivation for a future missionary commitment. Why should one try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it? But also for Christians an issue emerged: the obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem uncertain and problematic. If there are those who can save themselves in other ways, it is not clear, in the final analysis, why the Christian himself is bound by the requirements of the Christian faith and its morals. If faith and salvation are no longer interdependent, faith itself become unmotivated. Lately several attempts have been formulated in order to reconcile the universal necessity of the Christian faith with the opportunity to save oneself without it.

Benedict XVI seems to favour De Lubac’s explanation of how one might “save oneself” without the Christian faith but he does not seem to doubt that God simply cannot “let go to perdition all the unbaptized”. No matter, it seems, that the vast multitude of the damned in comparison with the elect is a truth taught in scripture and taken for granted by St Augustine, St Thomas, St Francis Xavier, Bl. John Henry Newman and the Fatima visionaries. The discovery of the Americas, so often cited by Implicitists, seemed to have no impact on these ‘Infernalists’ (as Balthasar called Augustine, Thomas and Newman). Before and after 1492 Catholic thinkers took it as a simple truth that “wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat” while “narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it”.

For most of Christian history the idea that one might “save oneself” apart from the Gospel has been taken as the very antithesis of the Catholic faith. In fact it is the credo of Christ’s enemies the Pharisees – justification by works. But why would someone who believed in justification by works traverse land and sea to make a single proselyte and yet flee for fear of the wolves, and why would he make his converts twice as much a child of hell as himself? For the Implicitist divine revelation is not an absolutely necessary means of salvation. What saves us is moral effort (for the willingness to believe whatever God might reveal is not itself faith but a work). Consequently, what evangelisation proclaims is not grace but law. The Implicitist proselytiser reveals a law to the pagan that he did not need to be saved and which he finds unsupportable “they bind heavy and insupportable burdens, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but with a finger of their own they will not move them.” Of course these burdens are insupportable because in the real world there is no hope for those who trust in their own works “they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they, not knowing the justice of God, and seeking to establish their own, have not submitted themselves to the justice of God.”

For such Pharisees ‘evangelisation’ profits not the convert but themselves. They accumulate works and impose burdens upon their victims. The Gospel is replaced with a pyramid scam. I think they call it the ‘new evangelisation’. No wonder such hired men flee when the wolf appears. Such Pelagianism by devastating the Lord’s vineyard invites the wolf. As Benedict XVI admits,

…this seems to remove any motivation for a future missionary commitment. Why should one try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it? But also for Christians an issue emerged: the obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem uncertain and problematic. If there are those who can save themselves in other ways, it is not clear, in the final analysis, why the Christian himself is bound by the requirements of the Christian faith and its morals.

It is not uncommon to hear the victims of modernist catechesis wistfully lament that they were not left invincibly ignorant of the Gospel and free to work out their own salvation with the glorious liberty of a pagan. God have mercy upon them and upon their afflicters. To be fair, Pope Benedict feels there must be some explanation for why we should preach the Gospel he just can’t think what it could be (but he has top theologians working on it). Pope Francis just thinks the whole thing is solemn nonsense. I fear Pope Francis has logic on his side.