Sermon on the Mount and the Church

One of the scandals for my students is that the Church is a part of the Gospel.  Not just the hearer of the Gospel.  Not just the people who happens to pass it on.  Not just a free association of like-minded believers trying to live it out.

My students want a proof that legitimizes the Church–the “Why should I bother being Catholic?” question–before listening to Her.  But only the Gospel itself can legitimize the Church, and She speaks from within that Gospel.

When we look at Jesus Christ we find the same problem.  He speaks the Gospel while being a part of it.  The Sermon on the Mount contains far more than just a practical outline about what we are to do and how we are to live.  In speaking the Gospel, Jesus gives Himself as its living heart, implicitly but not subtly declaring Himself to be the eternal word of the Father.

You could demand that Jesus Christ legitimize His authority separately from His message, but He does that by dying and rising…which is His message.  It is the same for the Church, who claims to be the divine instrument of the Gospel.

The fancy technical term for what is required here is faith.  The Catechism speaks of the mutually-illuminating words and deeds of Christ, but the light being cast is not the light of human reason alone.  We can trace the path of faith back to the resurrection, the supreme act of divine approval for all the deeds and words of Jesus, but even there we must have the light of faith.

What’s the corollary for the Church?  If Church and Christ really are parallel cases, what’s the path of mutually-illuminating deeds and words that takes us back to a foundational event of divine approval where faith is still necessary?

In Cur Deus Homo, St. Anselm set out to provide an argument persuasive to non-Christians (probably Jews) about the necessity of the Incarnation.  If you grant the argument in its entirety, it only establishes the need for an Incarnation–not that it has happened in Jesus Christ.  Faith is still required, and we are back to where we started (but perhaps with the horn of Eld Roland in our possession this time).

What is the corollary for the Church?  What is her praeambula fidei, her Cur Deus Homo?  Or did St. Anselm make a wrong turn when he tried to answer Boso’s question?

How do you put the horn of Roland in the hands of students before you show them the inside of the Church?


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