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Posts Tagged ‘Heresy’

The Venerable Bede (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The Fathers of the Church are particularly adept at “unpacking” the allegorical meaning of Sacred Scripture. The great Father and Doctor of the Church, St. Bede the Venerable, proves no exception as he reveals the meaning of today’s Gospel.

St. Bede tells us the ten lepers represent those “having no true knowledge of faith” who “profess a variety of heretical teachings.” These people do not hide their ignorance, but loudly proclaim it as the height of knowledge, even taking pride in what they say. Since even false doctrine contains an element of truth, St. Bede says this disordered mixing of truth and falsehoods “resemble the leprosy that spots and blemished the human body with patches of true and false colour.” We are warned that such people must be excluded from the Church and placed far off so that they might change their ways and loudly cry out to Jesus.

For those who do wish to be saved, will cry out to the Lord and will humble themselves to call Him their Master. It is in this acknowledgement of their estrangement and a return to the true teachings of Jesus that they find healing.

Of those healed by Jesus, it is only the lepers, notes St. Bede, whom Jesus directs to show themselves to the priests. This is because the Jewish priesthood prefigured the Royal Priesthood of Christ, which is the Church, His mystical Body. If those who are “discolored” with the stain of false teaching are to find salvation, they must renounce their false beliefs and return home to their Lord and His House, the Church.

As for the one healed man who returns, St. Bede says, “This one who went back giving glory to God is a figure of the one Church, in devout humility before Christ. He falling down before the feet of the Lord, gives fitting thanks. For he truly gives thanks to God who repressing the thoughts of his own presumption, is humbly aware of how weak he is in himself; he who attributes no virtue to himself; who confesses that the good he does, is due to the mercy of his Creator.”

We should note as well that we’re told the elect fall on their faces, while the wicked fall backwards. “The wicked therefore, since they do not see into what they are falling, are said to fall backwards, for they rush headlong where they cannot now see what will then happen to them. But the just fall as it were upon their faces; for moved by fear, they humble themselves: of their own will they throw themselves down amid things visible, that they may be raised up amid things visible.”

The number ten holds significance as well. It is a number which signifies unity. One joined to nine represents a unity. Thus, the nine need the one to become the unity of ten. However, the one does not need the nine since one is a unity in itself. “For this reason as the one who gave thanks is approved and praised as a sign of the One Church, so the nine who did not give thanks, now rejected, are shut out from the communion of oneness. And so shall others like them remain imperfect in the number of the nine. And rightly does the Saviour ask where are they; as though He knew them not. For, with God, to know is to choose; not to know, is to reject.”

St. Bede says, “As to the body, it is easy to see that a man may have no leprosy; and yet he may not be of sound of soul. But in the light of this miracle, it troubles the mind to know how one who is thankless can be said to be made clean? But it is now easy to see, that this also can happen that someone within the society of the Church may know her true and pure doctrine, and may interpret it all in accord with the Catholic rule of faith; he may distinguish the creature from the Creator, and by this show that he is free as it were from leprosy, from the spots of lies, and nevertheless by ungrateful to God and Lord Who made him clean, because uplifted in pride, he has not thrown himself down in loving humility to give thanks, and so has become like those of whom the Apostle said: When they knew God, they have not glorified Hum as God or given thanks (Rom i. 21). Saying, they knew God, Paul shows that they have been made clean of leprosy; yet he goes on to call them ungrateful.”

Thus, we find he who humbles himself at the feet of the Lord, professing his own unworthiness, is told to rise and be on his way, comforted by the Word of God to grow in his perfection. He is saved not through his accord, but by the grace he receives from God through his faith: “For if faith made him whole who had hurried back to give thanks to his Saviour and to the One Who had made him clean, unfaith has brought spiritual ruin to those who, receiving favours from God, fail to return and give Him glory.”

Our faith must not only grown through humility, but we must also undertake the works of faith which follow, “which makes whole those who believe, and give glory to the Father Who is in heaven. Amen.”

+JMJ

Source: M. F. Toal (ed). The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Volume 4. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000.

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