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Hine ma tov: The SSPX, the Messiah, and me


Simcha Fisher - published on 09/15/16

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In our short daily reading from The How-To Book of the Mass, we came across this thought yesterday:

We may feel that if we had walked with Jesus and been taught by him, we all would have instantly understood everything there is to know about the Christian faith. But clearly, that was not the case for the early disciples of the Lord. (91)

Clearly indeed. His disciples were slow and stupid and unreliable, but at least they knew enough to follow Him. There were an awful lot more who didn’t or couldn’t even recognize Him as the Messiah. The Jews had, of course, been hoping and waiting and praying for a Messiah for thousands and thousands of years. The central daily prayer of observant Jews includes petitions for an anointed one who will bring about

ingathering of the exiles; restoration of the religious courts of justice; an end of wickedness, sin and heresy; reward to the righteous; rebuilding of Jerusalem; restoration of the line of King David; and restoration of Temple service.

The Messiah was and still is expected, by many Jews, to be an earthly, political, temporal ruler.

Jesus did not look like that.

I have often wondered if I would have recognized Him at all, much less sold all I had and gone to follow Him. I am endlessly grateful to my parents for doing the recognizing for me. I still have to decide to remain with Him, day by day, but it’s a lot easier to keep in touch once the introduction has been made. I’m painfully aware that too much of my faith is based on habit, familiarity, and even convenience, and if these things were yanked out from under me, I may not keep my footing.

This is why I sincerely sympathize with those Catholics in canonically irregular groups who are now facing an invitation to come back into communion with the Rome — an invitation extended by Pope Francis, whom many do not even consider the true pope. Here’s a poll I saw on Twitter today:


How very odd, to feel a stab of sympathy for that 23%. I’m sure they don’t want my sympathy! Oh, well. It happened all by itself as I scrolled down the page, eating my shredded wheat.

Here’s a little background on what’s up for debate: According to LifeSiteNews:

The Vatican has offered the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) a personal prelature and confirmed that certain documents from the Second Vatican Council are not doctrinal in nature, according to an Italian archbishop tasked with overseeing the canonically irregular group’s return to full Communion with Rome.

I have not been able to confirm that there has been an official offer of a personal prelature from the Vatican. The reports of an official offer are based on remarks by Archbishop Guido Pozzo, the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, as reported in German newspaper Die Zeit (translated by Google here.) 

LifeSiteNews continues:

The SSPX was founded by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The group supports traditional liturgy and seeks to share the truth of the Catholic faith in the modern world, a task they view as “especially necessary considering the spread of atheism, agnosticism, and religious indifference.” […] In recent years, the SSPX has inched closer to canonical regularization. Pope Francis has continued negotiations with the Society that began during Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate. Pope Francis granted SSPX priests faculties to hear Confessions during the Year of Mercy — a faculty that will reportedly continue after the year.

Not everyone in the SSPX is glad for this inching. And their hesitation is nothing new. As soon as God made us and asked us to dwell with Him in the garden, we began to resist, and argue, and look for an exit.

I’m not trying to speak for anyone. I know that people in the SSPX have all sorts of reasons for finding themselves out of Communion with Rome. Some of those reasons are more noble than others, just like my reasons for finding myself in Communion with Rome. But what I am trying to do is to see that it’s hard, so hard, to accept an invitation that doesn’t look anything like what you expected or wanted.

The Jews didn’t want to hear that their Messiah was a carpenter’s son from some backwater town.

The chosen people who did follow the carpenter’s son didn’t want to hear that their Messiah planned to graft on the gentile riff-raff.

And every single day that I take breath, I don’t want to hear that that overly needy friend, that whining kid, that nasty cashier I meet are all Jesus, Jesus in disguise, Jesus looking for union with me.

It’s not what I want Him to look like. It’s not the deal I was hoping for. If the people who surround me — family, friends, generous priests and teachers — hadn’t brought me 90% of the way there, I don’t know where I would be. And this is why I am not only thrilled and joyful at the prospect of some kind of restoration to unity with SSPX, but I’m trying to take it as a reminder to keep on seeking unity with the members of the Body of Christ who don’t look the way I want them to look (and who feel the same about me).

In the past, more times than I can count, I have put pressure on the fault lines in the Church. Please believe me, I know. I wish I had not done so. The worst part is, I will probably do it again in the future, because, like the disciples, I’m slow and stupid and unreliable, and worse. I am trying to change. Please believe me, I am trying.

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, mother of us all who wants to see us in union with each other. Please pray for me, and I will pray for you, and for unity for the whole Church. Hine ma tov umahnayim shevet achim gam yachad! Behold, how good and how pleasing for brothers to dwell together.

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