Sunday, July 22, 2012

16th Sunday: "Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock": to teach the truth unites the flock around the saving Lord

People react in various ways when the Pope or the bishops act to correct erroneous teachings.

Whether a representative of the Pope investigates the Church in Ireland, the US bishops censure the LCWR, an organization which represents religious sisters, or if Rome makes a statements about the errors in a theology book, some people react with anger or incomprehension. Perhaps they think that people were treated with insensitivity in these cases.

But it is precisely because the Church has sensitivity for all of God's faithful people that such actions are taken. The words of the Lord Himself in today's Gospel explain why: "Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture".

You see, the Church does not belong to any human person or leader, but rather the members of the Church belong to the true Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who calls them, and us, the "flock" of His "pasture". The Lord continues to be the Shepherd of the flock through the teaching office of the bishops and the priests in collaboration with them.

What is the food upon which the Lord nourishes us? How does Christ keep the flock as one in unity? He feeds us with Himself in the Eucharist but also with the truth through the Church's teachings in faith and morals through the ministry of His duly appointed bishops.

And the bishops, the overseers He has appointed for the people of His flock, have been sent by Him to teach the truth in order to both feed the flock and build up the flock in the unity of His love.

"The individual bishops are the visible source and foundation of unity in their own particular Churches. As such, they 'exercise their pastoral office over the portion of the People of God assigned to them,' assisted by priests and deacons. But, as a member of the episcopal college, each bishop shares in the concern for all the Churches. The bishops exercise this care first 'by ruling well their own Churches as portions of the universal Church,' and so contributing 'to the welfare of the whole Mystical Body, which, from another point of view, is a corporate body of Churches.' They extend it especially to the poor, to those persecuted for the faith, as well as to missionaries who are working throughout the world." (CCC 886)

Bishops ordain priests to collaborate with them in their ministry of serving the life and Faith of the Lord's flock.

"In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis:

"It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi).

"Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of the old law was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of Christ." (CCC 1548)

The bishops are charged by Christ with keeping the flock in the unity of his pasture, the Church, by also teaching the truth and for which purpose He gives them His own authority:

"The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are 'authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice.' The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for." (CCC 2034)

One who will teach truth must always be ready to correct error by admonishing those who refuse to be corrected by the truth. Please pray for our bishops that they will always have the love inspired by the Lord Himself to teach also by correcting errors in that same love.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

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