It is interesting how before Jesus went back to heaven after God had raised him from the dead, that he clearly put Peter in charge and told him to look after his people. ‘Feed my lambs, look after my sheep, feed my sheep.’ He was commissioning his disciples to look after his people, all those who would follow his way of life. And this is the purpose of the Church as we know it today, to look after God’s people by feeding us, that is, by giving us whatever will help us to grow closer to God. And so the Church passes on the truth about God, as God has revealed it to us.
But how do we know that the Church is right in what she teaches; couldn’t it just be a few men who are out of touch who are passing on their own ideas? This is also why the Lord gave us the guarantee that he would always be with his Church to guide it. In the first reading St. Peter says, ‘we are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’ In other words they were being guided by God’s own Spirit. That’s why they were so confident and had such extraordinary courage. That is why today as well the Pope and bishops also speak out boldly and are often very unpopular as a result. They teach the truth that God has revealed. We don’t always want to hear it because it can point things out to us that we may not wish to see. But it is not the Church’s job to be popular, but simply to pass on the message of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ teaching caused him to be persecuted and eventually crucified, but it didn’t stop him. I already personally know two priests who have been shot dead because of their faith. It will always cause us to be persecuted, but that’s not important. What is important is that we recognise that it is from God and that we do our best to live this way of life. It isn’t easy, but the Lord never said it would be.
As you know the Church tends to get a lot of criticism on an ongoing basis. Some of it is well deserved, but when it comes to teachings about the faith we believe that it is the teaching of Christ that is being passed on. And so although we may not fully understand it we try to accept it as best we can because we believe it is from God. Remember what Jesus said to Peter at another stage: ‘whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ He also said, ‘whoever listens to you listens to me, whoever rejects you rejects me.’
We will always struggle with much of the Church’s teaching to be sure, everyone does, but the one thing that we can not do is to just pick and choose the bits that suit us, because that’s not how it works. The Lord just asks us to persevere and try to be faithful and we also know that we have the great mercy of God to support us when we fall.
‘Feed my lambs, look after my sheep, feed my sheep.’