Pastor Letter | June 27
13th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Dear St. Joseph Parish Family,
This Tuesday is the
Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
. St. Peter is, of course, the first "pope," a title not used until much later (it means 'papa'). Jesus is the head of the Church, the Body of Christ, but the pope plays an important role in the Church as a symbol of the unity of the Church on earth. Among the Apostles, Peter was the highest (thus in the Gospels Peter often speaks for the apostles as a whole). The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the following about Peter's role and authority:
"553 Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." The "power of the keys" designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: "Feed my sheep." The power to "bind and loose" connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom."
St. Peter became the bishop of Rome and was martyred in Rome, and St. Paul also died in Rome. Thus, future bishops of Rome, the popes, receive the authority of Peter and Paul – that's why the pope is always the bishop of Rome.
The apostles ordained bishops to continue their ministry in future generations, and so every deacon, priest, and bishop can trace his ordination back to the apostles. For instance, any Catholic deacon, priest, or bishop was ordained by a bishop, who was ordained by another bishop, who was ordained by another bishop, and one can trace that line of ordinations all the way back to one of the apostles. We call that Apostolic Succession – that the authority of bishops, priests, and deacons comes from the apostles directly.
A key witness to that tradition is
, whose memorial is this Monday. St. Irenaeus was the bishop of Lyon and died around the year 200. He wrote many important theological books (well worth reading) and in one of them, he lists the bishops of Rome from his day back to Peter. The early Church gives witness to the importance of apostolic succession from the beginning of the Church.
The ordained ministry has a specific role to play in the Church that was given to it by Jesus. However, that authority and mission are always for service – to provide the members of the Church access to the teachings of Christ and the sacraments Christ instituted. It is not the authority of the world, which often simply means power over others, but rather the authority of love which demands sacrifice – giving oneself for the good of others. That is the path of holiness. Thus, one of the titles for the pope is "the servant of the servants of God," meaning the pope is serving the other bishops who are themselves serving the people of God. In our own lives, it is important to remember that the authority we are entrusted with is always meant to be used to serve others, not ourselves. We only finally become our true selves when we give of ourselves out of love for others. What we keep for ourselves always spoils – it's only what we give away that we truly keep.
on Sunday, June 27 at 8:00AM