St Paul tells us in the First Reading, the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you I turn received, in which you also stand, through which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you – unless you have come to believe in vain. After this, he speaks of how Jesus appeared to the Apostles after the resurrection and also to him. Paul claims the same authority as the Apostles of Christ. This tells us the importance of Apostolic teaching. This is why Catholics should learn about their faith so they will not believe in vain. There are many today who preach the message of mercy without repentance, of love without sacrifice, of salvation without power. While these proclaim a gospel with no need for repentance, the Pharisees in today’s Gospel cling to their belief in strict observance of the Law. They do not believe in the mercy of God to sinners. These two extremes show how people can be misled if there is no single authority to base their beliefs.
St Bellarmine whom we celebrate today says Freedom of belief is pernicious, it is nothing but freedom to be wrong. When I decide what to believe, and how a Church teaching is to be taught, I claim this Freedom of belief and most probably, will be led to the wrong path. This is why Apostolic teaching is critical because it is the basis of how the Apostles interpret the words of Jesus. However, Apostolic teaching is limited to issues on faith and morals as proven by Bellarmine who said To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous to claim that Jesus was not born of the virgin. Despite being a doctor of the Church, Bellarmine was speaking about science (the revolution of the earth around the sun), which is beyond his competence. His being doctor of the Church is limited to his insights on faith and morals.
Lord, I pray you will guide me in the truth. Teach me to learn more about what you taught through your Apostles and their successors. Give me wisdom to discern true teaching over what is false. St Bellarmine, give me wisdom to know God’s Truth over man’s opinion.