<i>Habet tales Ecclesia</i>
"The one who enters by the door is the shepherd, but the one who climbs up another way is a thief and a robber, and he desires to destroy and to scatter and to bear away" (Jn 10:12). ... The Lord mentioned three personsa shepherd, a hired hand, and a thiefand we ought to examine them in the Gospel. He said that the shepherd lays down his life for the sheep and enters by the door. He said that the thief and the robber climb up by another way. He says that the hired hand flees when he sees a wolf or a thief, because he does not care about the sheep; he is, after all, a hired hand.Find those three persons and you will find the one you should love, the one you have to tolerate, and the one you should avoid.
The shepherd should be loved, the hired hand tolerated, and the thief avoided. There are people in the Church about whom the Apostle spoke (see Ph 1:17), who preach the Gospel under pretext, seeking their own interests, whether money or honors or human praise. They preach in order to get gifts and seek their own advantage more than the salvation of those to whom they preach. Now if someone hears about salvation from one who does not himself possess salvation, if he believes in Him whom he is preaching and does not put his hope in the one through whom salvation is being preached to him, then the one preaching will suffer loss while the one to whom it is preached will gain from it. ....The Scribes and Pharisees sit on the chair of Moses: do what they say, but do not do what they do. For they say, but they do not do (Mt 23:1-2) The Lord was not referring only to the Scribes and Pharisees....When bad clergymen hear what is said against them, they want to twist it. I have heard some of them twist that very sentence. And if they could, theyd erase it from the Gospel, wouldnt they? But because they cant erase it, they try to twist it. .... And what do you think they say of whom it is said: Do what they say? That it was said to lay people. A lay person who wants to live well, when he listens to a bad cleric, what does he say to himself? The Lord said, Do what they say, but dont do what they do. Let me walk in the Lords way and not follow this ones behavior. From him let me hear, not his words, but Gods words. Let me follow God, let him follow his greed. If I were to try to defend myself before the Lord and were to say, Lord, I saw that evil cleric of yours living badly, and thats why I lived badly, will he not say to me, Wicked servant, didnt you hear me say, Do what they say, but dont do what they do?As for a bad lay person, unbelieving, not belonging to Christs flock, not belonging to Christs wheat, one of those tolerated like chaff on the threshing floor, what will he say when the word of God begins to accuse him? Go away, why talk to me? The bishops themselves, the clergy, arent doing it, and youre forcing me to do it? Hes not looking for a defender of an evil cause, but for a companion in his punishment....And how do they twist the sentence spoken against those who live badly? It was rightly said by the Lord, Do what they say, but dont do what they do. That was rightly said, they say. You were told to do what we say, and not to do what we do. For we offer the sacrifice, and you are not permitted to do that. Notice the cunning of men, but--what am I saying!--the cunning of hired hands. If they were shepherds, they wouldnt say that. Thats why, to shut their mouths, the Lord added, They sit in Moses chair; do what they say, but dont do what they do. Because they say but they do not do. What, then, brothers and sisters? If the Lord were talking about offering the sacrifice, would he say, For they say but they do not do? After all they do offer the sacrifice. What is it, then, that they say but do not do? Listen to what follows: For they bind up heavy loads, hard to carry, and place them on mens necks but will not touch them with a single finger (Mt 23:4). Clearly he was criticizing them, and describing and revealing them. When those people try in this way to twist the meaning, they show that they are not looking for anything in the Church except their own comfort, that they havent even read the Gospel, because if they knew the passage, and read the whole of it, they wouldnt dare say such a thing.But listen more carefully, because the Church has such people [habet tales Ecclesia]. Dont anyone say to us, He was talking about the Pharisees, about the Scribes, about the Jews, for the Church doesnt have such people. Well, then, of whom was the Lord speaking when he said: Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven? And when he added, On that day many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and do mighty deeds in your name, and eat and drink in your name? It wasnt the Jews who were doing all that, was it? Its quite clear that he was talking about people who bore the name of Christ. And what follows? Then I shall say to them, I never knew you. Depart from me, all you who work iniquity (Mt 7:21-23). (Augustine, Sermon 137; PL 38, 754ff)
About the Author
Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.