I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; none shall be missing, says the Lord.
Question: How do you know where to find Jesus’ church?
Answer: Find the church he established.
As Catholics, we believe that Jesus established the Catholic church to continue His mission in the world. Last weekend, we heard how Jesus sent out the Twelve to continue His mission (Mk. 6:7-13). These Twelve were directly chosen by Jesus (Mk. 3:13-19) to be the core of the community. They were the foundation of a new Israel, just as the twelve tribes were the foundation of the people of the Old Testament. Like Israel, the new community founded on the apostles was to be the instrument God would use to renew the world. In fact, these apostles would spread the restoring power of God beyond Israel to the ends of the earth.
Already in the Old Testament, God was promising to renew His people. In our reading from Jeremiah this weekend, we hear God saying, “I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble.” These Twelve apostles are the fulfillment of that promise.
And these Twelve apostles form the foundation of the church. In the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:15-26), the Apostles choose a replacement for Judas so that their mission as shepherds of the people can continue. This choice of successors to the apostles continues today in the selection of bishops who are called to be shepherds after Jesus’s own heart.
Like the Old Testament shepherds, some of our bishops fail to live up to their calling, but Jesus continues to use them to guide and sanctify His church. The authority of leadership is passed down from one generation to the next in the call and ordination of the Bishops who take the place of the apostles as shepherds of the church. This process of handing down authority from one generation to the next is called “apostolic succession” and ensures that the Catholic church stays connected to the apostles and their mission. It is the source of the church’s apostolic authority. Since the time of the apostles, leaders have laid hands on the next generation to pass along the mantle of leadership.
That’s why we pray for Bishop Ricken and Pope Francis every time we gather for Mass. We believe that God has chosen them as our shepherds and that their authority comes from Jesus through the long story of apostolic succession.
Parish Pastoral Leader