Acts 20:28-38; Psalm 68; John 17:11-19
In the Gospel today, Jesus says sanctify them in the truth: your word is truth. This is how we are made holy: by the Truth of the Word of God. Holiness is not doing pious acts or doing great things for God. Holiness is allowing God to do great things for us. Jesus says of his Apostles at the Last Supper I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Jesus gives the Apostles the word of his Father. Who is the Word of the Father? It definitely is NOT Scripture because Jesus did not hand them a written document. But Jesus is the Word of God. By saying this, Jesus hands them himself AND the memory of what he taught and did. It is this Person of Jesus and the memory of what he taught and did makes us holy, that separates us from the world.
Sadly, Paul’s warning in the First Reading is still applicable today: Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after I have gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them. The word overseer can be translated as bishop. Paul reminds the bishops of the community in Ephesus that they are shepherds of the church of God bought by the blood of Jesus. Paul did not tell the bishops to to do good works, to help the poor, or promote social justice programs. He warned them against savage wolves who distort the truth. The role of the Bishop is to make sure the Word of God, the Person of Jesus in the Eucharist and in the preaching of the word is faithful to what Jesus taught and did.
When we look at the Church today, we do not see this. Some have betrayed the trust given to them by hiding and even promoting sexual predators within their diocese. Some promote distortion of the truth, even to promoting the murder of the unborn or promiscuity through their silence or worse, speaking for these and silencing those who speak against these evil. Some have promoted idolatry, desecrating churches where the Presence of Jesus is kept. Woe to those who do not take care of their flock, what more to those who cause the confusion to mislead their flock.
This is why it is important for Catholics to know their faith, to learn from those who are faithful to the teaching of the Church. We cannot just believe what someone says, because of their position in the hierarchy. God gave us our intelligence so we can think for ourselves, discern whether someone speaks the Truth of God or their own truth. We will know if they speak truth if we compare what they teach and preach to the Word of God, not only in Scripture, but in the Person of Jesus and what he left with the Apostles. If someone distorts the Truth as proclaimed by Jesus and the Apostles, we are not bound to believe or obey. These are false prophets and wolves whose interest is not our eternal life, but the feeding of their own ego. St Paul says clearly in Galatians 1:9 I say again, If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be cursed.
We celebrate St Augustine of Canterbury. He was a Benedictine monk whom the Pope sent in the sixth century to bring the Gospel to England. He preached the Word of God handed by Jesus to the Apostles and became the first Bishop of that Church, which at that time was a united Catholic Church.
Preaching the word of God is a dangerous duty. We will be persecuted because people cannot accept the truth. But anyone who does not take this seriously will be held accountable for every careless word they say. Pray for preachers and teachers of the Word. Pray for deacons, priests and bishops that we may remain faithful to the Word of God given by Jesus to the Apostles. And if you know of anyone who distorts the truth, pray that the Lord will show you what you have to do.
Lord, I pray for our bishops, priests, deacons and those who proclaim the word you have given to your Apostles. Let them remain faithful to you and give them courage to keep the Truth pure. Give them courage to stand against distortions of the truth and proclaim you as the God who gives power and strength to his people.