Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today it is mentioned to us in the readings from the Holy Scriptures, of a very important role and position in the hierarchy of the Church, which all of us indeed have to be aware of, and have to adhere to. St. Paul in his letter to Titus, his friend and fellow servant of God, while he was in captivity in Rome, mentioned of the criteria which should be strictly observed when the overseers of God’s faithful ones are chosen.
And in the Gospel reading, Jesus warned His disciples against creating scandals in the faith, and as such, they should avoid creating scandal among the faithful and in the Church. Such scandals are harmful when it causes damage both physical and spiritual to the faithful and to the Church as a whole, and Jesus condemned those who have brought others into damnation because of their actions that brought about scandal and therefore not in accordance to what Jesus had taught His disciples.
How are the readings today link to each other? The bishops are very important building blocks of the Church, as the key figures that link the laity and the priests, to the Vicar of Christ, the Pope, who leads all the faithful, in union with the love of God, the true Head of the Church. The bishops, from the Latin term of their title, episcopus which means literally overseers, are truly the overseers of the faithful in their faith.
It is important that the candidates of bishops are first scrutinised thoroughly before one of them, who is found worthy and good, is selected as the bishop of a diocese. That is because the growth of the spiritual life and the well-being of the faithful ones of the Lord, depend on the state of the spiritual life of the shepherd of the flock, that is the bishop, who is the shepherd entrusted with the care of the people of God, the flock of Christ, in his diocese to be under his protection and care.
Jesus often mentioned in His teachings that we should not be hypocrites who merely show an external aspect of our faith and devotion to God, for others to see us, or even worse, for them to praise us because of what we have done. If our faith is like this, and if we pretend to be faithful for such purposes, then we may be held accountable for these actions.
It is precisely like the actions of the Pharisees, as well as the teachers of the Law, who proudly present the way they lived their faith to the people, and basked in their praise. In turn, they also misled the people by not practicing the Law with the whole of their hearts, and instead they served their own glory and purposes rather than serving the greater purpose of God.
They were bad shepherds, whose actions in opposing the Lord Jesus at every turn and opportunity were truly scandal in the faith. Their way of living and their way of seeing the world around them were also scandals of the faith, such that they were truly worthy of being rebuked endlessly by the Lord, who revealed the truth about their wickedness to the people of God, so that they may be wary of them and therefore also do their best to avoid doing the same as those wicked elders had done.
It was in particular mentioned that those who misled the little children of God are in particular to be blamed for their wickedness and evil. And indeed, those children are truly born pure and blameless, a blank and clean slate upon which, true and genuine teaching of the faith would have brought much goodness. A proper upbringing in faith for these, through proper catechism and role modelling in the faith.
If someone is to corrupt the faith by not doing what he is supposed to do, and worse still, if this person is the appointed shepherd of the people, as bishop and overseer, then it will bring much damnation to those sheep that had been entrusted to the aforementioned bishop. And in the end, the entire Church and the body of the faithful suffer, because of the wickedness and corruption this improperly elected bishop had done for his flock.
Therefore, this is why in our present time today, as it had been for quite a long time, bishops are carefully selected from among the priests, through a careful and extensive process of selection, from a shortlist produced by the diocese, to list down at first, the most worthy, holy, devoted and dedicated among the priests, to be made the bishop.
The final decision is to be done by the Vicar of Christ, the Pope, who through his representatives to the dioceses, the Apostolic nuncios and the delegates, keep in close contact with the various dioceses. Thus, it is why the responsibility and the role of the Pope is so important, as he is the Head of the entire Universal Church, and the ultimate and greatest guardian of the true and orthodox Faith.
That means, the Pope is charged with the final decision on who is truly worthy and who is truly best for the position and role of bishop for the dioceses. It is so that the Church may avoid scandal or any risk of problems that may likely arise if an unworthy individual became who they should not have become. If this happens, then the risk to the faithful sheep of the Lord is truly very, very great.
Thus, in consideration of the roles of the bishops and the Pope, even the position of the Pope, who is also the Bishop of Rome, is very, very carefully chosen, through the conclave, where the Cardinals, carefully selected members of the Church who then elect the most worthy amongst them to be the Supreme Pontiff and leader of the Universal Church.
And today, we celebrate the memory of a great Pope, whose feast we celebrate today, the very first Pope to be accorded with the title of ‘the Great’, in recognition of his great role and fundamental role in the development of the Faith and the Church. He is Pope St. Leo the Great, who lived and reigned during the waning years of the Roman Empire in the West.
Pope St. Leo the Great led the Church at the time when the civil authority and order of the Roman Empire is crumbling, especially in its western regions, including the city of Rome, and the society as it was known then, was under great threat from barbarian attacks. It was for this that Pope St. Leo the Great was mostly known for, that is in his role in stopping the great conqueror, Attila the Hun, from ransacking the Eternal City, or Rome, the Holy City of the Apostles.
When the great conqueror came, and when everyone else, including the Roman Emperor and the civil authorities all hid in fear, this holy servant of God, and the shepherd of the flocks of Christ went forth without fear and with zeal, to meet with the Hunnic king, and by the grace of God, persuaded him to retreat. Such was the courage and faith of this great Pope, that he managed to protect and prevent his flock from suffering.
However, what was less well known is the role which Pope St. Leo the Great played in the Church, and in the combatting of heresies and wickedness among the members of the Church at the time. Ever since the beginnings of the Church, there had been some among the faithful who did not remain true to the teachings of the true Faith, as they syncretised their faith, and they followed their own fancy and heretical ways of the Faith.
Therefore, many Ecumenical Councils were held in the early Church to standardise the true and orthodox teachings of the faith, and to condemn and anathemise all heresies and falsehoods in the teachings of the faith, including the errant and unfaithful bishops who misled many of their faithful, the precise scandal of the Faith mentioned earlier.
Pope St. Leo the Great was instrumental in his role in guiding the Church to keep the orthodox faith against those forces of men, who tried to subvert the teachings of the Faith to suit their own desires, their own purposes and their own wickedness. The teachings of Pope St. Leo the Great, his writings and works remain until even today, a very defining standard of the faith, which even this generation today look up to, in order to maintain the orthodox and true faith.
Therefore, on this special and sacred occasion, let us all come together and pray, pray for our bishops, our priests, and also our Pope, so that all of them will keep strongly the faith entrusted to them. So that they will keep without reservation the sound doctrine of the faith, without bending to the demands and temptations of the flesh and the world.
May Almighty God bless our Church, that day by day, our faith may grow stronger and stronger. That our Church may grow ever more faithful in the Lord. May the bishops, the shepherds of faith remain strong in their faith so that they will lead the faithful, following the examples of Pope St. Leo the Great, and abandoning all forms of fornications and evils, so that no scandal may arise, and the faithful may all benefit greatly from their care and love. God bless us all. Amen.
First Reading :
Gospel Reading :