The Dominican friar, Blessed Humbert of Romans O.P. once said "First the bow is bent in study, then the arrow is released in preaching..." These are the sermons of fr. Lawrence Lew O.P., a Friar Preacher (Dominican), interspersed with art and some of his photographs.
There seems to be, even among Catholics, a contemporary tendency toward agnosticism about God and the articles of faith, because it is thought that the truth about God and faith cannot be known with certainty. So, to make dogmatic statements of faith would be arrogant because we cannot really say what is true. And yet, today, Jesus says: “Your word is truth” (Jn 17:17b). This is to say, that truth can be known and found in him, the Word of God. And truth, as such, is discovered with and through the Church who continues and incarnates in every place, culture and age, the Word of God.
But how do we know this to be true? Jesus says: “For their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth” (Jn 17:19). The first sense of ‘consecrate’ in this sentence is that of a sacrificial offering set aside for God. So, Jesus is referring to his Passion, to his sacrifice on the Cross, and to his resurrection. And Jesus says that he undergoes this Paschal Mystery for our sake, in order that we might be “consecrated in truth”, that is to say, that we may know; be certain of; be set apart for God through the truth. And the truth that we know from the historical fact of Jesus’ sacrificial death and re-creating resurrection is that God is Love. All who witness to this and profess this, are thus united. For we are one through this truth that God is Love, one in our faith in the incarnate Word of God; made one Body, one Church in Christ. Since this unity comes from our common witness to the truth of the Cross, St Paul can thus say in today’s First Reading that “the church of God [is] obtained with the blood of his own Son” (Acts 20:28b). For the Church who is consecrated in truth is born from Christ’s witness on the Cross, born from his sacrificial witness to the truth of God’s undying love.
And the fruit of knowing the truth, of being consecrated in the testimony of God’s Word, is two-fold. Firstly, the Church is held in unity. For there is a unity between what is and what we believe, such that all who hold to the faith also concur on what is, and are united. And the second fruit is that we are kept from the Evil One. For the devil is the Father of Lies (Jn 8:44) who seduces us through un-truths and half-truths, through agnosticism about the faith. So, we are kept safe from the devil’s trickery if we seek and find truth where it is to be found, namely in God’s Word and in the Church of the incarnate Word.
Hence, to learn and to expound the doctrines of the Church, to contemplate her dogmas, is not arrogance, as some seem to think. This might be so – indeed, it would be dangerous foolishness – were the Church’s doctrine merely opinion, or if truth were a weapon of the Church which she can manipulate at will. But the Church of the incarnate Word does not possess truth. Rather, she is possessed by Truth, in love with her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and so, treasuring every word that he speaks. Through the centuries, then, all who have loved Christ have desired to know the Word of God intimately; to study and share the Church’s dogmas; to ask questions so as to deepen our understanding of them. The task of theology, and especially dogmatic theology, as such, is not arrogance but a humble desire to be consecrated in the truth, to be protected from the Evil One, and to seek unity in Jesus Christ.
Moreover, in this theological quest for truth, one is merely being human, for Mankind has a natural desire for truth. Thus, as St Thomas says, Truth, especially the ultimate truth of God and being, of life, death, and our final end must be knowable, if Mankind is not to be simply absurd. Thus, Jesus consecrates himself, revealing the truth of who God is, “for [our] sake” (Jn 17:19a), so that humanity might not be absurd but have meaning, purpose, and direction.
There has been much praise of Pope Francis’ warm personality and his evident care for the poor and marginalized. Only yesterday it was announced that the Holy Father will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday, not in his cathedral or in St Peter’s, but in Rome’s juvenile detention centre. And he will wash the feet of twelve inmates as a sign that he is going to serve the poor, the unwanted and the forgotten of society. Actions like these are “good works” that are deeply impressive, and the Media has been fixated on them.
But the Holy Father knows that what he believes and says and does is nothing new, nor by any means unique to his pontificate or to himself as a Christian. For the Catholic Church is still internationally recognized as the largest charitable organization on earth. Only two days ago, the new Archbishop of Canterbury acknowledged that Catholic Social Teaching is “one of the greatest treasures” that the Church has to offer to the world. But this teaching is still little known by many Catholics, let alone by non-Christians. So, what the Pope seems to be doing through his actions is to draw the world’s attention to our social teaching, and to highlight what so many Christians have been doing quietly since the apostles. And the reason for this, I think, is to try and rebuild the Church’s credibility and standing in our society, to re-focus on Christ. As Jesus says to the unbelieving Jews who opposed him, “even though you do not believe me, believe the works” (Jn 10:38a). So, we’re inviting a skeptical world to “believe the works” that the Church does. This is an important foundation for the New Evangelization.
But the works themselves point to beyond themselves to God who is the Father of all good. As Jesus says today: “believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father”. (Jn 10:38b) Each of us, baptised into Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit, can say the same. Any good works that we do comes from the grace of Christ for “apart from [him we] can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). And if we have an explicit faith in Christ, then our works witness to him, and to his divine authority.
It is this claim of the Church – that Christ teaches with authority, teaching, even deeply unpopular and hard truths in fidelity to him – that is often opposed. This is especially so when they stand against the ‘gods’ of modernity and so, constitute a ‘blasphemy’. But in fact, not only our good works, but also our faith, our beliefs, our world view and our moral life, all stem from our relationship with Christ and are a response to the Gospel. As Pope Francis said to the world’s journalists: “The Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that that entails, yet her nature is not essentially political but spiritual: the Church is the People of God, the Holy People of God making its way to encounter Jesus Christ. Only from this perspective can a satisfactory account be given of the Church’s life and activity”.
So, our good works are the start of the New Evangelization, they should lead one to the Father, to our God of mercy and love. And this work begins, not with the Pope alone, but each one of us. As Pope Paul VI said in 1975: “It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus – the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity”. Pope Francis has highlighted this with his own life. What can we do?
In recent days, the virtue of humility has been mentioned frequently, especially with regard to Pope Francis and his patron saint, Francis of Assisi. And today, as the Pope officially began his ministry, we celebrate the Solemnity of the saint of humility, St Joseph. So, let us look to his example, and consider what, really, is humility?
St Joseph’s humility is shown in his openness to the angel’s word and his willingness to do as the angel told him. Through the humility of faith, St Joseph was willing to change his plans, ideas and behaviour so as to accommodate God’s revelation, God’s loving plan for him. So often we struggle to believe, to trust in God’s Word and teaching; we hang on to our intellectual pride. But with humility, which recognizes our human limitations, not least the limits of our poor reasoning and intellect, we open ourselves to be taught by Him who is Truth; we come closer to God.
St Joseph’s humility is also shown in his silence. He doesn’t say a word in the Gospels, but he listens, observes, learns. Our noisy, Media-led world adulates humility but does not seem to know what it is. For humility is found in silence, in a pondering, patient, chaste silence which includes admitting that oftentimes we just do not know. But from this humility comes an openness to Truth, to the mystery of another person, and above all, the mystery of God. As St Thomas says: “We cannot know the essence of God”, but what we can say about God is first given to us by the divine Word, we’re taught by Another, enlightened by divine revelation. A humble openness to Truth, as such, is the basis of all science and also of theology, of a brave and committed friendship with God through faith and reason. In such silence, St Joseph cradled and gazed upon the face of God in the Christ Child.
Our world is full of questions but in fact it lacks this silent and receptive humility that is necessary if we’re to hear a genuine honest answer. For the temptation of our modern communications-driven world is for us to always try and give quick answers, snappy judgements, and people expect analysis and commentary on everything. So, this morning on the BBC’s coverage of the papal Mass in Rome, one commentator said: “Nobody knows what to expect from this pontificate”, and the next moment, the group of commentators in the BBC studio had ready answers, speculations and opinions, pontificating on what the Supreme Pontiff should do… But we could all do well to emulate St Joseph’s humble silence, especially in the face of ignorance.
However, as St Joseph also shows us, humility doesn’t mean false modesty or mere agnosticism or simple passivity. This strong fatherly saint also acts with prudence and wisdom and uses the gifts he has from God. This, too, is humility: that we recognize what God has given us and act accordingly. As a Church this means we have a duty to preach the Truth of the Gospel which we’ve been taught, to speak up for those who are persecuted and oppressed, poor and marginalized, and to love them. By preaching Christ and being his Body on earth, we love our world, we love one another, and indeed we love God’s Word. Can preaching the truth be arrogance, as some say? Rabbi Joseph Telushkin put it this way: “the fact that we have greater abilities than another does not mean that we are greater in God’s eyes… but only that we have greater responsibilities. Thinking about how much we can do in comparison to what we have done… serves as a corrective against pride and arrogance”. And there’s no arguing that there is still so much we can do to become more truly like the One whom we preach and serve: Jesus Christ, who loved us so much that he accepted death on a Cross.
Like St Joseph, may we fix our gaze on Christ, and may St Joseph pray for us, and for our Holy Father, Francis.
In this fortnight before Easter, which is still sometimes called Passiontide, the readings have changed in mood. We are emerging from the themes of wilderness and journey, from exhortations to repentance and penitential acts to focus on God’s work of saving grace through the Passion of Jesus Christ. In other words, in this run-up to Holy Week we’re looking at how Jesus will save us through the events of Holy Week: his trial, suffering, death and resurrection.
The Gospel readings from St John continue Jesus’ disputation with the Jews, as Jesus invites us to ponder his identity and saving mission from the Father, but with each day the tension mounts too, as the antagonism between Christ and the Jewish religious authorities mounts. However, the First Readings, at least in the first part of this week, look at the events of Holy Week through the lens of the Old Testament. We’re being invited to look at types, or anticipations of Christ’s Passion in Old Testament figures.
Today, we’re invited to see the righteous and innocent Susanna, as a figure of Jesus Christ who was also falsely accused and unjustly tried and condemned. Susanna had two witnesses to accuse her, as the Law demanded, but these human witnesses were liars, and Daniel exposes them as such. Jesus will also be condemned by false and fallible human witnesses. But the Lord will not be saved from execution by a just human judge like Daniel. Pontius Pilate is too cowardly to let justice be done and he allows an innocent Jesus to be crucified.
However, Jesus insists that he does not need human witnesses to the truth of his identity and mission, nor indeed, a human judge to save him. Rather, God will be the just judge who rescues him from death. And by raising him from the dead, God testifies to Jesus’ innocence and the truth of his claims. Hence, Jesus’ Passion and Crucifixion is part of that divine testimony, part of Jesus’ glorification. For Jesus dies so that he can be raised by God, and so, be vindicated in the truth of what he said and did. And, as Christ is raised by the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can note that here are the two witnesses to Christ’s truth – not fallible and unreliable human witnesses but divine witnesses, God himself.
The first miracle at Cana is well-known. Our Lady, a mother, intervenes and Christ, at first reluctant, performs his first sign and changes water into wine. The servants witness this miracle happening, and when others see the sign, they believe in Christ. The second miracle, however, is less well-known but there are similarities. Here, a royal official, a father, intervenes and Christ is again reluctant. But he performs the miracle, again from afar; again, just through the power of his word. And the boy, some twenty miles away is healed from a deadly illness. The servants witness this miracle happening, and when others see this sign, they all come to believe in Christ.
Our attention, I think, can be drawn to two aspects of these two signs at Cana. Firstly, that Christ is reluctant to perform the miracle. Not because he doesn’t want to help or heal but because he doesn’t want our faith to be dependent on “signs and wonders”, on the spectacular and the miraculous. But he recognizes, too, the weakness of our faith, and so, he says: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe”. And thus he acquiesces to the intervention and performs the miracle.
However, notice that these miracles are not directly seen by those who ask for it. Rather, they experience the effects of Christ’s miraculous action. So, although Jesus does perform miracles, he doesn’t allow us to depend on them directly. Rather, we see and experience, taste and behold what Christ has done through the testimony of others, the anonymous servants. And this, in fact, is the essence of faith, which is what Christ wants to teach us.
For the first point is that faith in Christ comes through others, through the testimony of anonymous eyewitnesses. But when we believe in Christ through such testimony, then we also benefit, and come to experience his grace and goodness personally. Is this not how we come to faith in Christ? We first believe in the testimony of his Church, of the many anonymous servants who wrote the Gospels, who discerned the truth and reliability of the Scriptures, who reflected theologically, and who shared with us what they had seen and experienced. Through the witness of others, we come to faith, and we, too, become believers and witnesses.
The second point is related to this. We come to believe at the word of another. But, ultimately, we believe in the Word, in God’s living Word who is Jesus Christ. Faith, as such, is relational and dependent on trust in another person, in a living community of believers, and, above all, in a personal God who is Other. Faith is dependent on Truth, and its being told.
Hence, in a world and society, in a church community, even, where trust has broken down because of lies and deception, very little can be achieved, few wonders or signs can be performed. The only way to be freed from distrust is through the truth coming to light, exposing our falsehood. When this happens, the diabolical error would be to become cynical about the ‘institution’ or about people in general. Rather, we should rejoice when truth is told because this is the surest sign of Christ at work. God’s Word, who is Truth itself, is being made manifest, and so, he is bringing about new life, healing our deadly sickness, and transforming our water into wine; “a new heavens and a new earth” is at hand, as Isaiah says.
The question is, do we have enough faith to believe in the Truth and its inherent goodness?
The Pharisee raises himself up while simultaneously putting others down. This is typical human behaviour whenever we compare ourselves to other people, and it’s easy for any of us to fall into that trap. Many have been publicly doing so in response to recent events affecting our Archdiocese. But, if we must compare ourselves to others, maybe we should look to Christ. And then we shall recognize a fundamentally humbling truth about ourselves, about every human person, which is that “all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” as St Paul says to the Romans (3:23).
As such, every one of us needs to say: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”. We have nothing to boast of, for any good we do is rooted in God’s grace, in his goodness. For God loves and saves us, and prompts us to good deeds, not because of who we are but because of who he is. God loves us because he is good, not because we are.
But, of course, we’re hesitant to look at Christ or even at the saints for comparison. We find ourselves making excuses and justifying why we’re not more like them. It’s much easier, much more comforting to compare ourselves with other people, especially notorious sinners. Because when we compare ourselves to Christ, we see the truth of who we really are. And this truth hurts, so that we might feel “torn to pieces” and “slaughtered… with the words from [God’s] mouth” (Hos 6:5), indeed, slaughtered by God’s Word of Truth, by Jesus Christ.
However, the truth will also set us free – free from illusions, from a false image of ourselves, and a stagnating self-righteousness and isolating pride. It is our false image that is being torn to pieces, and our false self that is being slaughtered so that we are restored to a true relationship with God and our neighbour. We are, after all, not so different from our fellow sinners. And we are all – I am – in need of God’s mercy. And this, too, is the work of God’s love. For only when he have a “humbled, contrite heart”, and stand before God in truth, as a sinner, can his Holy Spirit raise us up to new life. As Hosea says: “[God] will raise us up, that we may live before him” (6:2). God raises us all up, but only when our false selves have first been put down.
At the end of St Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord says to St Peter and the apostles: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:18-20).
In this we see two essential elements of the work of the apostles in building up the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, on earth. There is the sacramental activity, by which Christians are inserted into the life of the Trinity. And there is the teaching or magisterial activity, by which Christians are taught to live a life modeled on Christ’s. This is to say, we’re enabled to live a life of charity that makes explicit what it means to be baptized into the life of the Trinity, into God who is a communion of love.
In order that these life-giving activities continue until Jesus Christ returns in glory, as he commands, so Christ promises to be with his Church, present and active in her teaching authority, called the Magisterium, and present and active in her sacramental life. So, in the authentic teaching of the Church, and in the sacraments, it is Jesus Christ who is acting, who is teaching, and who is sanctifying his people. For any authority that the Church has, and any grace and truth that she communicates comes, ultimately, from him, the Head of the Church. As the Catechism says: “Entirely dependent on Christ who gives mission and authority, ministers are truly ‘slaves of Christ’” (CCC 876). As such, leadership in the Church is exercised as a service to Christ, to his Church by keeping all in a bond of love and unity, and to the world who longs to hear the Gospel of truth.
Hence, the Catechism explains that “in order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility” (CCC 889). It is this gift of Christ’s sure and infallible authority to his Church, particularly to St Peter and his successors, that we celebrate in today’s feast. For the Magisterium, and especially the ministry of the pope, is a sign of Christ’s love for us, of his promise to be with his Church “to the close of the age” to keep us in a unity of faith with him, and to lead us and into all truth; the papacy is a sign of Christ’s pastoral care, and of his faithfulness. So, the Catechism says that, through the Magisterium, we receive a “guarantee [of] the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error” (CCC 890). As such, dissent from the teaching authority of the Church is actually a sign of a lack of faith in Christ. For it says, in effect, that Christ has broken his promise to be with his Church for all time, that his gift of infallibility in matters of faith and morals has failed, or worse, that his teaching is being rejected.
It’s sometimes objected that there have been very unworthy popes, and so, we can’t trust the papacy. But, as in the sacramental life – in our life of grace and our relationship with God – it is not our worthiness that takes centre-stage. Rather, the effectiveness of the sacraments themselves, and indeed, the existence of the Church (despite the sinners that make up her members), and so, also, the infallible teaching authority of the Church, all point to the faithfulness of Christ. They all speak of a God who is love, and who thus does not abandon us when we, his sinful servants, fail. Rather, Christ promises to remain with us, to be present and active in his Church so as to always teach, guide, and sanctify us.
It is this promise made to St Peter and to each of his successors, to every pope, that we celebrate today. In just one week the Chair of Saint Peter will be vacant as Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate comes to an end. But the chair, the seat of authority, itself remains. Because the authority entrusted to the papacy is Christ’s own, and Christ, who is always faithful (cf 2 Tim 2:13), has promised to remain with his Church always, “to the close of the age”.
The 11th-century Japanese courtesan, Sei Shonagon, once said, in what is considered the world’s oldest novel, that a saint is one “who has really given up all thoughts of the world”. In a sense, she is right. Her compatriot, Paul Miki, who was martyred in Nagasaki in 1597, and the other twenty-five martyrs of Japan whom we honour today would have had to renounce the world, and focussed instead on Christ, and “the life of the world to come”. So, yes, the saint looks beyond this world and our present life. But, in another sense, the saint cannot be one who has really given up all thoughts of this world. Because the saint and martyr lives and dies for love of the world, for love of one’s own country, and for you and me.
As St Thérèse of Lisieux, who is patron saint of the missions, famously said “love was the true motive force which enabled the other members of the Church to act; if it ceased to function the apostles would forget to preach the gospel, the martyrs would refuse to shed their blood.”
It seems to me that Sei Shonagon’s characterization of a saint has to be seen from the context of the Buddhist ideals of self-denial, renunciation of the world, and self-immolation for one’s personal and individual transcendence; it is, essentially, auto-salvific. But there is no hint of this in the Christian understanding of sainthood. Rather, the act of Christian martyrdom is motivated entirely by love, that is, it is an act of sacrifice for the sake of others, in order to witness bravely and radically to the Truth of the Gospel so that others, too, might be saved through faith in Jesus Christ. As St Paul Miki said moments before his execution: “Having arrived at this moment of my existence, I believe that none of you thinks I want to hide the truth. That is why I declare to you that there is no other way of salvation than the one followed by Christians”.
So, the martyr sheds his blood in order to witness to the most important things in life, truths worth dying for, and his witness is an act of love for others, hoping that we might thus be convinced of the Faith for which he died – faith in the Crucified Christ, in the power of his resurrection, in the truth and necessity of his Word. Thus, the saint is paradoxically most world-embracing when he renounces the world by giving himself up to death, preaching with his blood. But if the martyrs’ witness, his “mighty work” is not to be in vain, then we need to beware our modern tendency to relativize truth, and to see another’s belief and conviction as merely a matter of individual conscience. That would be akin to the tragedy of today’s Gospel, where the people hear Christ’s wisdom and see his works, but they refuse to believe because they think they know better.
St Paul Miki’s dying words were: “I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain”. Such was his love for us that motivated his sacrifice. As we contemplate his witness today, let us do so with humility and open hearts, open to the Truth he loved and preached. Through his intercession, may we be roused to greater faith and hope in Christ and his promises.
Today, the Order remembers the witness of another group of 17th-century martyrs of Japan – catechists, lay Dominicans, benefactors and inn-keepers who sheltered the Dominicans and helped them in their mission. Among these, and named in our Collect, is the first Dominican to shed his blood for the local Church in Japan, St Alphonsus Navarrete who was a priest, a Spaniard from the priory in Valladolid.
St Alphonsus volunteered to be a missionary to the Far East, and worked in the Philippines from 1595, and then in Japan from 1611. In 1614 he was expelled from Japan as the new Shogun who was a fervent Buddhist promulgated an ‘Edict of Total Persecution’ against Christianity. Over the next twenty years, a fierce persecution would erase all public Christianity in Japan.
But St Alphonsus boarded a ship that took him to another part of Japan, and he secretly made his way back to Nagasaki where he united the Christians of that city under a Confraternity of the Holy Rosary (which numbered tens of thousands), and he spread devotion to the Rosary in the surrounding regions. Working with Franciscans and Augustinians he also established a Confraternity to care for the sick, the orphaned and the abandoned children of the city. Reminiscent of today’s Gospel, they went in search of the poor, handicapped and needy of the city of Nagasaki, and brought them in to be cared for.
In 1617, St Alphonsus began to preach the faith publicly because the laity were disheartened as they thought their priests were too afraid to proclaim their Faith openly. Four days later, he was arrested and finally beheaded on 1 June 1617. Other Spanish friars followed in his wake, and also about a hundred Japanese Christians – professed Dominicans, Dominican laity and members of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary – were all captured, tortured and killed in a cruel and painful manner.
The surviving accounts of the lives and deaths of these martyrs shine like a precious jewel - full of humanity and the very human circumstances and emotions that we can identify with, but also full of courage, grace and conviction which witnesses to the truth of the Faith, and to their all-consuming love for Christ. As the Catechism says: “Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine” (CCC 2473).
Every martyr follows in the pattern of Christ, the king of martyrs. They had the mind of Christ, for that is what faith gives us, so that they had the grace to follow his example of sacrificial love. Hence, the martyrs “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted” them. And today we honour their memory, thank God for their brave witness, and ask for their prayers. May they strengthen our Faith to bear witness to Christ and the truth of the Gospel in our own time, and in our own countries.
The idea of stewardship unites today’s readings; a sense that something precious and life-giving is entrusted to the steward, who is called to faithfully cherish it, nurture it, and use it for the benefit of others, to hand on the gift intact to others. That gift, essentially, is our faith in the person and saving work of Jesus Christ, i.e., his Gospel. And this Gospel, St Paul says was revealed to him, given to him “for” us; given to be handed on to the likes of you and me for our good and eternal happiness.
What is essential in such an understanding of the act of stewardship is that the Gospel – the content of our faith – is not ours to manipulate, but is entrusted to us to be cherished, lived, and handed on intact, so as to feed the hunger of each generation for saving Truth, so that all may receive “their portion of food at the proper time”. To give any less, or to attenuate the Gospel would be to abuse the Master’s trust, and to starve the world of what it deserves: the Good News of salvation in Christ.
As Vatican II put it: “God has seen to it that what He had revealed for the salvation of all nations would abide perpetually in its full integrity and be handed on to all generations. Therefore Christ the Lord… commissioned the Apostles to preach to all men that Gospel which is the source of all saving truth and moral teaching… This commission was faithfully fulfilled by the Apostles [and apostolic men in their preaching, handing on of tradition, and writing of the Scriptures]. But in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, ‘handing over’ to them ‘the authority to teach in their own place’” (Dei Verbum, 7, 8).
So, the role of stewardship of the faith, of keeping the Gospel “forever whole and alive within the Church”, of handing on the Master Jesus Christ’s gift of saving Truth, belongs especially to the bishops, and then to priests who are co-workers with them. It is a duty that is entrusted to them for all time, until Jesus comes again. So, even if the Master is delayed – and in the 21st-century it may seem he is much delayed – the Church and her ministers are called to remain faithful in preaching the Gospel and handing on the same fullness of the faith, God’s “eternal purpose”, that was first revealed to apostles like St Paul.
Indeed, Paul even says the Church would make known this Gospel “to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” which, I suppose, means we’re called to preach the one faith to every person in every age and place, even if we were to encounter rational life on other planets! So, let us pray for our bishops, and for all who have been entrusted with preaching and teaching the Gospel, that they may be faithful stewards who feed us what we need: the saving truth of Christ’s Word and his life-giving Body and Blood. And so, may we, drink deeply with joy from the wells of salvation (cf Responsorial canticle).
Father Leon Dehon, founder of the Priestly Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Congregatio Sacerdotorum a Sacro Corde Iesu) also known as the Dehonians, celebrating Holy Mass. According to former privilege granted to the missionaries in China,