Sunday Reflection – Old vs. New

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A); First Kings 3:5, 7-12; Psalms 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52 or 13:44-46

St. Peter's Basilica

“Liberal” and “conservative.”  The definitions of these terms are seldom stated.  Usually they are just presumed.  Often people call “conservative” those who like old-fashioned things and “liberal” those who favor the latest ideas, trends, and values.

But for the Christian, the ultimate question is not personal preferences of style, or whether something is old or avant garde.  It is rather whether or not it fits into the Kingdom of God.

To discern what fits with the Kingdom, we first need to know what that Kingdom is all about.  First of all, we know that God is truth.  So the kingdom of God is where God’s truth reigns and his commands are observed.  As the Lord’s Prayer says, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.”  To be a good “fit” with the Kingdom, things must be in accord with God’s word expressed in Scripture and Tradition and interpreted authoritatively by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

We also know that God’s will is for our good.  Jesus said in John 10:10 “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” In John 15:12 Jesus says that he has come “that your joy may be full.”  The Kingdom of God then is where there is intense life, freedom and joy because a loving Father is in control.

In the early Church, there was a lot of debate about whether Christians could eat certain things, particularly meat sacrificed to pagan idols.  Paul’s response was clear: “The kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).  If he were speaking today, he might instead insist that the Kingdom is not Latin or the vernacular, novenas or prayer meetings, organ or guitar music.

The person who understands the Kingdom of God, says the Lord Jesus, “is like the head of a household who can bring from his store both the new and the old.” (Mat 14:46).  Archbishop Fulton Sheen was a great example of this.  He loved the traditional faith and piety of the Church (old), but proclaimed it by means of television (new).  Another great example was Pope John Paul II.  He was devoted to the rosary (old) but enriched it with the luminous mysteries (new).  He defended the sexual morality of the church (old) but expressed that morality in a fresh and intriguing way through his “theology of the body” (new).

There are some old things that just can’t fit into the kingdom.  Polygamy.  Gladiators.  Emperor worship.  But there are also some “new” things that can’t fit into the kingdom either.  Elective abortion.  Human cloning.  Artificial contraception.  The Kingdom is the pearl of great price.  If we recognize the value of it, it makes sense to “sell” such things in order to purchase it.

But there are also many things both old and new that are not incompatible with the kingdom at all and actually can be wonderful expressions of it in certain times and places: Gregorian chant, the Papal tiara, the Tridentine Latin Mass on the old side, exuberant LifeTeen Masses and charismatic prayer meetings on the new.  But if devotion to these expressions, based on personal preference, causes strife and tension, there is something wrong.  There is a difference between the Pearl of great price and its packaging.  The Pearl always comes in a wrapper.  But if we love a particular wrapper so much that in clutching it we let go of the pearl, it doesn’t matter if we are liberal or conservative–we’re being just plain foolish.  Together with Solomon, let us pray for the wisdom needed in every situation to correctly identify the Kingdom of God and hold fast to it.


Acknowledgement

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources or info on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor as a reflection on the Mass readings 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A). It is reproduced here by permission of the author.

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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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