The Association of Priests in the Opus Angelorum is for those who feel called by God to pastorally assist the faithful of the OA in their region and/or for those who want to find some spiritual support in their priestly ministry through clerical reunions of prayer and retreats. The monthly Circular Letter with meditations on the angels in Scripture is intended as an (unofficial) instrument of common formation and as a help towards deeper communion with the holy angels and among ourselves. It is directed to all bishops, priests and deacons who are particularly interested in collaborating with the holy angels and to the members of the Association itself.

XXV, May/June 2019

The Church is divine (cf. Acts 5:1-11)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!


The Acts of the Apostles, by some also called the "Gospel of the Holy Spirit", describe in the second chapter the pentecostal effusion of the Holy Spirit over the leaders of the Church. After this, the apostles started to preach and baptize, to pray and celebrate. And those who were baptized, "every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes" (Acts 2:46). Through the Holy Spirit, all the baptized loved each other and had, as it were, but one soul: "The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common." (Acts 4:32; cf. 2:44f.)

The fallen angels had suffered their terrible defeat through the expiatory death of Jesus on the Cross and his resurrection. They thought they would win, but lost. As they never come to rest, their anger burns in their being without consuming them. They now try to strike Jesus in his work, the Church, or at least in her members (cf. Ap 12:17). Here, in the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Luke describes one such attack by the "father of lies" (Jn 8:44) as Jesus called the devil. St. Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit, detected the lie instigated by Satan. (CCC 407)

A man named Ananias, however, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. He retained for himself, with his wife's knowledge, some of the purchase price, took the remainder, and put it at the feet of the apostles. But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart so that you lied to the Holy Spirit and retained part of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain yours? And when it was sold, was it not still under your control? Why did you contrive this deed? You have lied not to human beings, but to God." When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last, and great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped him up, then carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours, his wife came in, unaware of what had happened. Peter said to her, "Tell me, did you sell the land for this amount?" She answered, "Yes, for that amount." Then Peter responded, "Why did you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen, the footsteps of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." At once, she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men entered they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. (Acts 5:1-11)

1. Law and Love

Ananias and Sapphira were one of the Christian couples. They had a piece of land. The moral basis of the event is this: all the Christian were totally free to have their own possessions, free to keep it and free to sell it. This couple decided to sell it. Then, "Ananias retained for himself, with his wife's knowledge, some of the purchase price, took the remainder, and put it at the feet of the apostles." (verse 2) St. Peter explicitly pointed out to their rights and freedom: "While (the piece of property) remained unsold, did it not remain yours? And when it was sold, was it not still under your control?" (v. 4)

Peter made this clear because, in these first days, the members of the Church developed the custom to share their goods with the community, especially with those brothers who have little. There was, however, no such law, no "must". St. Peter maintained clearly distinguished law and love, the "must" and the "can". The meeting of Jesus with the young rich man (cf. Mt 19:16-22) also made it clear. There is the distinction between "gaining eternal life" or being saved, and being "perfect"; the distinction continues valid between the "must" of the observation of the Ten Commandments and he "can" or freedom to follow the evangelic counsels; or, back to the event we consider here: the distinction between private property and the voluntary renunciation of the same, so as to give it to the Church or to those in need… Law rules life, love offers freedom; law regulates one's behavior and secures order, love goes beyond: it makes one forget himself, become sensitive for the presence and generous towards the need of others. Law describes one's rights according to justice, love however forgets one's advantage, turns to the others and gives.

2. "You lied to the holy Spirit"

No express reasons are mentioned, neither for the selling, nor for the gift to the Community. It is apparent, however, that they wanted make a good impression, especially before the eyes of the hierarchy, the apostles. The problem here was, that they simulated to give the entire gain to the community, as if they would have sold their land just for the benefit of the Community. But this was not the truth. They lied to the Church, and to the leader of it. But St. Peter discovered the lie, or by the Holy Spirit himself or by conversation (cf. v. 8). He confronted them: What Ananias and his wife did was not only done towards the community.

Their behavior was before the Church, and this Church is the kingdom of God on earth. This Church was and is instituted by the Son of God, who is one with the Father and Holy Spirit for all eternity. The Son of God, who became man, is the Head of this Church, and its members form his body, according to the St. Paul's attempt to describe this mysterious, supernatural reality (cf. 1 Cor 11:17-32). They are adopted sons of God (cf. Rom 8,14-17). In consequence, Christ does not just look what one does to "these least [of his] brothers", but considers it to be done to himself (cf. Mt 25:40). He says much more concretely with regard to the disciples: "Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." (Lk 10:16) It is clear, that the Church is not just one society among others in this world, or like any organization, run by opinions and votes. The Church is not human, but divine in origin: Called into existence by Christ, living by the constant vivifying presence and action of the Holy Spirit, gifted with all the means to lead men to their real and everlasting good, the union with God in eternity. Therefore, whoever deals with the Church, is dealing with God (cf. CCC 748-780).

Beyond that, any Christian should believe that we stand always and everywhere before God, and God knows the heart of every person. Our entire life is always like an open book before him, so that no lie can ever gain his approval.

St. Peter pointed out to Ananias what really had taken place: Why have you allowed "Satan" to fill "your heart so that you lied to the Holy Spirit and retained part of the price of the land? … Why did you contrive this deed?" (v. 3-4) "You have lied not to human beings, but to God." (v. 4) In consequence, the narration goes on saying: "When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last." (v. 5). The same happened to his wife, "three hours later." Peter verified with her: "Tell me, did you sell the land for this amount?" She answered, "Yes, for that amount." (v. 8) Peter told her, that her husband and she agreed "to test the Spirit of the Lord" (v. 9), and she too "breathed her last." (v. 10).

3. The hard test of today

We are free to determine, how much we want to contribute to God's kingdom. But, if we decide to give all then it should be all, when we want to give a part, we may do and say so. This is similarly true with regard to the gift of ourselves: If we decided to give ourselves totally to God, then it has to be all. We cannot "play" with God. It is better to stay further back as the Israelites asked Moses to speak with them as mediator to God than to approach too close to God and get burned, because "God is a consuming fire" (Hb 12:29).

It is no secret that, in our days, many souls have missed some catechism classes about the correct understanding of the Church. Apparently, this couple here did not look at God when they made their donation to the Church. Their punishment can serve as a "Wake-up-call" for those faithful today who go to Church, but act against her teaching; who ask for holy communion and yet have a divided heart. Their intentions are not pure; the self-love is stronger than their love for the community and for God.

Of course, we never see into the heart of the persons – as Peter could. Life today is manifold; many faults in the Church are public, and, principally, there is great darkness or blindness with regard the real truth about the mystery of the Church. In consequence, the faithful today go through a hard test: Christ still invites Christians: "Renounce yourselves" and risk a certain insecurity; be not ashamed to "take up the cross" of others and associate with brothers whose faults are publicly known, even faults of priests and bishops. It requires deep faith today when Jesus says, "follow Me" for He is to be seen with a wounded face (bearing the sins of the Church) rather than as glorious Divine Redeemer. Yet, the Catechism makes very clear: the Church is united to her Crucified Redeemer, and she has to follow him "in his death and Resurrection" (CCC 677; cf. 671-679).

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

Jesus said: "there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light." (Lk 8:17) And God assures us that "nothing unclean will enter (into the heavenly City), nor any (one) who does abominable things or tells lies." (Ap 21:27). Yet, it is a splendid blinding work of the devil, in these days of darkness, when he hides the supernatural identity of the Church and places all types of sins in the Church before the public. However, we believe that it does not really soil the Church's deepest heart in which God is present. "The Holy Church will always be 'the rock, out of rocks' with her irrefutable Word of God, her commandments, her invincibility." (Mother Gabriele, Maxims). Let us help our people by our transparency and encourage them with the words of St. Peter himself: "cast all your worries upon him (God) because he cares for you" (1Pe 5:7).

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC

 

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