Thursday of the 4th Week of Easter
April 29, 2021
Acts 13:13-25; Psalm 89:2-3, 21-22, 25 and 27; John 13:16-20
We all know that Christ established his Church through the preaching and teaching of his Apostles. Since the Apostles were sent by Christ, they received the same respect from the early Christians as would have been given Jesus if he had come to them. The Apostles were their (and our!) link to Jesus.
Fast forward to today. Every diocese in the world has a Bishop who has been chosen and ordained through Apostolic succession. Do we give our Bishop the same respect as the early Christians gave the Apostles? Do we understand that even though our Bishops are sinners just as we all are, they deserve the same respect as the Apostles received from the early Christians? They are, indeed, the messengers chosen by Jesus to shepherd his flock.
I think one of the great tragedies in our Internet-connected world today is that it is so easy to be critical of our church leaders. Rather than communicating support for our Bishop, so many criticize him for his decisions and his communication style. Of course we are not always going to agree with his decisions, but we are called to be obedient to them. Perhaps we think that if we were the Bishop we would do things differently. But guess what? We are not the Bishop. We are the flock called to follow the voice of our shepherd.
Sadly, I’ve witnessed so much division in the Church over the past year. So many of us have been critical of the Bishop’s decisions, particularly his mandates for worshipping during this time of pandemic. Many were critical of his closing of our churches last year in an attempt to prevent the spread of a virus about which we knew little or nothing. When he did reopen the churches, many rebelled against our Bishop’s requirement that we wear a mask when attending Mass, not to mention his unpopular requirement that we receive communion on the hand in an effort to help control the spread of COVID.
Our church culture has become toxic in so many ways simply because so many of us have bought into the idea that our personal freedoms are more important than our obedience to Church leadership, to our successor of the Apostles.
Today let us reflect on our attitudes and opinions about our Bishop and other leaders in the Church. Rather than criticizing their decisions, let us follow the words of Our Lord in today’s gospel after he washed his disciples’ feet:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
Dear friends in Christ, we will not always agree with our Bishop, but we are called to listen to him and respond with obedience. This is the essence of humility, to know our place and to respect the authority of him who has been appointed to lead us, even when we disagree with him.
God bless you.