WEDNESDAY HOMILY: Do Bishops Need a Year of Faith?
A bishop shares in the fullness of the priesthood of Jesus Christ
HYTHE, KENT, UK (Catholic Online) - "Be not afraid! Trust Jesus." This is what Archbishop Harry Flynn told me before I began to confess my sins to him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I had been away from the Catholic Church for five years, and so I was a bit frightened to come back. After I went through six pages of sins scribbled on sheets of paper attempting to confess my sins in kind and number, with tears in my eyes I looked up to see him mingling tears with me. After giving me a penance and listening to my act of contrition, he held out his arms and embraced me. For me, this was the embrace of God the Father made present on earth, and his prodigal son had come home.
I was very moved when he asked me if I would like to become a priest after hearing my confession. "Yes!" I joyfully responded, although I had been discerning this for a while, I hadn't yet taken the final plunge. Within a few hours, I began the entrance dialogue with the vocation director, and well, I think you can tell what happened after that.
A bishop shares in the fullness of the priesthood of Jesus Christ. We believe that each priest acts in persona Christi, but bishops in a deeper way are "in loco Dei Patris, the place of God the Father" (Bl Pope John Paul II's exhortation on Bishops, Pastores Gregis, 34). This is what each bishop ought to remind us of, the embrace of God the Father, his provident care for his people, his gentle fatherly direction and correction, his tenacious and protective watch over his children, and above all, his supreme fatherly love.
In the readings for today's Mass, speaking of the servants in charge of his household while he is away, Jesus tells us, "Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more." And St Paul in the first reading, speaking of those who are chosen to preach the Gospel, says, "I became a minister by the gift of God's grace that was granted me in accord with the exercise of his power." These of course can be applied to bishops in a preeminent way.
Do bishops need a year of faith?
They have such a lofty calling, one that is not easily fulfilled, not without much prayer and suffering on their part and the part of the faithful. Let us make a commitment to pray for our shepherds, who are beset on our age by many fears, temptations, foes, and battles.
The Second Vatican Council says: "The bishops themselves, however, having been appointed by the Holy Spirit, are successors of the Apostles as pastors of souls. Together with the supreme pontiff and under his authority they are sent to continue throughout the ages the work of Christ, the eternal pastor" (Decree on Bishops, 2).
In this Year of Faith, we ought to have a special commitment not only to understand the role of bishop in the Church, since we believe that it is God the Father's way of caring for us. There are two dimensions that the mystery of faith brings out in the faithful with regard to the bishops:
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