Few people have a biography as interesting as Rosalind Moss’ life story. Born into a Jewish family, Moss grew up considering herself an agnostic – perhaps there was a God, she thought, but He made no difference in her daily existence. Then one day her older brother, David, told her about the Man he had accepted as his Savior. Rosalind initially thought her brother had gone off the deep end, but she soon joined David in Evangelical Protestantism. To her horror, within two years her brother entered the Catholic Church, which Rosalind considered to be a false belief system. It took over a decade and a half before she, too, became Catholic. Her journey, however, was only beginning – Rosalind Moss is now
Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God, O.S.B., and has become the prioress of a new religious community, the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel’s Hope.
One paragraph in Rosalind’s amazing conversion story really got my attention. Back when she was still agnostic, her brother told her about Jesus Christ:
David brought me an article that said there were Jewish people who believed that Christ was the Messiah. I asked my brother, ‘You mean to tell me that the Messiah was already here? That He was the only hope the world ever had, and yet the Jewish people didn’t know this? That He came and left and there has been no impact, no change, no peace? That’s just insanity.’
When I first read Rosalind’s reaction to what is, after all, the Good News, I laughed. It struck me as exceedingly strange that she or anyone should feel the way she did about the advent of the Messiah. Nobody knew? For Heaven’s sake, woman, the First Coming of Jesus Christ the Messiah changed the world! How can you say with a straight face that He came and left and there has been no impact?? Take the blinders off and perceive the 2,000 years of Christian history you are committed to ignoring!
Talk about missing the memo!
Of course, from Rosalind’s Jewish perspective, her attitude made a great deal of sense. It was taken for granted that Jesus was not the Messiah; therefore, 2,000 years of Christian history could be ignored without qualms. I realized that I of all people should not find this approach strange, given that as a Protestant I would have had exactly the same incredulous reaction had a Catholic walked up to me and claimed that Jesus Christ Himself established the Holy Catholic Church as the pillar and foundation of truth.
Really??? I would have laughed. What a novel approach to theology and Christian history! Where, pray tell, does Jesus say one word about the Catholic Church? Where is the word “Catholic” in the Bible, or the word “pope”? You have no biblical basis whatsoever for your laughable belief that Jesus established an earthly institution with a hierarchy, a Magisterium – a Church that teaches with authority!
Of course, I was right about the words “Catholic” and “pope” not being in the Bible. But the word “church” certainly is in there, and that was the concept that I was devoted to ignoring. Not that I was unfamiliar with verses discussing the importance of the body of Christ:
And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Eph 1:22-23
Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Eph 2:20-22
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. Col 1:16-17
But Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Heb 3:6
I liked those verses – they required nothing of me. Yet for all my familiarity with Scripture, there was one verse about the church that I was unacquainted with:
…so that if I am delayed, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth. 1 Tim 3:15
Those words that St. Paul penned to Timothy, the bishop of Ephesus, were never really discussed at the Evangelical churches I attended. Taken literally, they subvert the very premise upon which Protestantism was founded. We Evangelicals would have told you that it was the Bible which was the pillar and foundation of truth! Yet the Bible says that the pillar and foundation of the truth is the Church….
That changes everything….
Interestingly, both Rosalind the agnostic and Rosalind the Evangelical Christian were committed to ignoring the same pivotal passage in Matthew. When she was Jewish, Rosalind would have rejected St. Peter’s confession of faith, for he told Jesus, “You are the Christ – the Messiah! – the Son of the living God!” This concept, that Jesus was the One foretold by the prophets, was rejected by many Jews in Jesus’ day and on down through the centuries. Rosalind’s ancestors discounted the possibility that Jesus could be the Messiah, thus leaving Rosalind and her brother clueless when it came to the Good News of the advent of Israel’s Hope – she could in good faith cry out, “Who knew?” By the grace of God, Rosalind accepted Jesus as her Savior and was able to affirm with St. Peter: You are the Christ, the Messiah! But all was not yet well – her newfound spiritual ancestors, Evangelical Christians, discounted the possibility that Jesus had established an authoritative Church, and so she thought it only right to reject the words that the Messiah then answered to Simon Peter:
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”… “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Mt 16:16, 18-19
Yet 2,000 years worth’ of Christians have taken those words at face value:
Our Lord, whose commands we ought to fear and observe, says in the Gospel, by way of assigning the episcopal dignity and settling the plan of His Church: ‘I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever things you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, they will be loosed in heaven.’ From that time the ordination of bishops and the plan of the Church flows on through the changes of times and successions; for the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by the same rulers. Since this has indeed been established by Divine Law, I marvel at the rash boldness of certain persons who have desired to write me as if they were writing letters in the name of the Church, “since the Church is established upon the bishop and upon the clergy and upon all who stand firm in the faith.” St. Cyprian of Carthage, c. 250 A.D.
Two thousand years’ worth of Christians have believed in the very biblical concept of an authoritative Church, of bishops who had the right to absolve sins, to teach authoritatively, and to command, and of the bishop of Rome who was charged with feeding Christ’s sheep and strengthening his brothers in the Faith. Yet had you asked Rosalind or me, we would have asked you – where is this in the Bible??
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the Church; and if he refuses to listen even to the Church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Mt 18:17-18
The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me. Lk 10:16
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. Lk 22:31-32
And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” Jn 20:22-23
So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” Jn 21:15-17
At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry…. For it is written in the book of Psalms: “Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no one dwell in it” and “Let another man take his office.” Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection. So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. Acts 1: 15-18, 20-25
And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. 2 Cor 10:6
We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. 2 Thessalonians 3:14
For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 2 Timothy 1:6
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Tim 2:2
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 2 Timothy 4:1-2
These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Titus 2:15
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Heb 13:17
We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. 1 Jn 4:6
Talk about missing the memo.
Taking for granted the Protestant claim that each man or woman’s private interpretation of Holy Scripture is the pillar and foundation of truth leaves Christians wandering in the dark, since of course the Bible nowhere teaches such foolishness, and no one believed such foolishness for the first 1500 years of Christianity.
So, you’re Catholic, and all of this is dead obvious to you, and you’re laughing. Well, it wasn’t dead obvious to me as an Evangelical – I had no clue. I believed what I’d been told, exactly as did everyone who attended our Evangelical church. We all missed the memo. When you see an Evangelical, never assume that “there goes a person who has rejected the truths of the Faith.” In nine out of ten cases, that person hasn’t ever had Catholic teaching clearly presented to him or her. Never think that that person will simply reject the truth if you present it to them. I certainly didn’t reject Catholic teaching when it was finally explained to me, and neither did Rosalind Moss. A lot of folks truly are just waiting for their Catholic friends to care enough to share the truths of the Faith with them. Really.
Please resend the memo.
On the memorial of St. Virginia Centurione Bracelli
Deo omnis gloria!