St Vincent of Lerins (died circa 445 AD), in a letter cited in the Church’s Office of Readings, (Friday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Times), asks and answers the question about whether there can be any “development of Religion in the Church.” Can there be what we might call a development of doctrine? Can the teaching of the Church change in any way?
St Vincent says Yes, “But it must truly be development of the faith, not alteration of the faith.” “Development,” the Saint writes, “means that each thing expands to be itself, while alteration means that a thing is changed from one thing to another.”
Perhaps one example of this authentic development would be the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. At the Last Supper Jesus Christ gave Himself – His Body and Blood – to the Apostles. He told them, “Do this in memory of me,” and He consummated this complete gift of Himself in the Crucifixion and Death on Calvary, and in His Resurrection.
The Mass – as recorded in the acts of the Apostles, the New Testament Epistles, and the early apostolic writings of the Fathers of the Church - ‘developed’ to include readings from the Sacred Scriptures, and the Prayer of the Priest who says the very words of Christ, and what is called the ‘the Breaking of Bread,’ and distribution of the Holy Communion.
You know well the passage of the dialogue between Jesus and the Apostles at Caesarea Philippi (Mt 16:13-20; Mk 8:27-33). Jesus asks His closest followers, “Who do people say that I am?” They offer the different perceptions of the day, “Some say John the Baptist, others, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the Prophets.” “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responds quickly, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”
Jesus commends Peter, and entrusts to him the keys of the Kingdom; an extraordinary role in the Church.
Imagine for a moment, if Peter, a few years later, after Jesus’ Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, posed the similar question in the Church. He asks, “What do people say about the Church and Her mission?” We could expect a variety of opinions and observations.
We can ask the same question today: What do people say about the Church? Who determines Her teachings and work?
The heart is often represented as the core or center of human emotions, and especially of love. The images of Valentine’s Day bear testimony to this. We know that the heart – along with the brain – performs one of the most important works of the body. In the great first command of the Old Testament – and the New Testament – we are “to love the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength” (Dt 6: 4-5; Mt 22:37; Mk 12:29; Lk 10:27).
The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is likewise a powerful sign or symbol of Christ’s love ‘in the flesh.’ When God took human flesh in the mystery of the Incarnation, there was formed in Him also a heart. After His death Jesus rose in the body. He ascended into Heaven in His body. And so His loving and Sacred Heart continues to live and beat.
The climax of the Easter season is in the two solemn feasts of the Ascension and of Pentecost.
The Ascension of the Lord, celebrated traditionally Forty Days after the Resurrection, can be seen as a grace of divine justice. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior, humbled Himself in being made flesh in the Incarnation. He taught, was killed, and rose from death. Now He is restored to the glory that is rightly His from all eternity. He returns to the heavenly Father, and sits at the right hand of the power. He receives again the glory which is His due.
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the 17th century French Visitation sister and mystic, along with St. John Eudes, St. Gertrude, and others, is associated with the Devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. St. Margaret Mary says of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that she is the mirror of the Sacred Heart. Her love is a reflection, an image of Christ’s Heart.
Any authentic teaching about Mary will make clear that God is always the source of life. Mary is His humble handmaid, chosen from all mankind, to participate in a most extraordinary way in the mystery of the Incarnation. From Heaven she continues, through her maternal prayers, to bring the world to her Son.