Today’s readings focuses on the ministry of the apostles and the early bishops of the Church, which include Saints Timothy and Titus, whose feast we celebrate today. Both saints were the same as those mentioned in the first reading, and were the correspondents in the letter from Paul to them.
Saints Timothy and Titus were the early successors of the Apostles, whose succession was done by the means of the laying of hands by the Apostles. This practice of the laying of hands created the basis of Apostolic Succession established in our Church today, where all bishops today in the world, can trace their authority back to the Apostles, in a chain of bishops unceasing until the Apostles themselves, and therefore, ultimately derive their authority from Christ Himself, as in the Gospel, Christ Himself appointed the disciples, which in addition to the twelve, were to do the work of the Lord, helping Christ in His ministry during His lifetime. After the death and resurrection of Christ, and after Pentecost, many of these disciples would be the first bishops of the Universal Church.
There are many duties expected of these disciples, in particular to bring the message of the Lord to all, especially those who welcome them. The mission would not be easy, as there will be those who reject Christ and thus reject His apostles, to the point of even persecuting them, as what happened during the great persecutions in the Roman Empire, where thousands of the bishops and priests, together with many of their flock were martyred because they stayed true to their faith in God. Nevertheless, the early fathers of the Church persevere in their faith, and as a result the Church grew, and eventually converted the Roman Empire to Christ.
The missions of these bishops and representatives appointed by Christ and His successors were manifold, namely to heal the sick, to bring peace and the Word of God to people who long for them, and to lead the people towards God their Saviour, and most importantly, as St. Paul told to St. Timothy, that the bishops and Church leaders should be beacons of faith and courage, that all others would see in them and be resolved on their own to also have the same faith and love of God. This mission never ends, so long as the world remain in darkness, and many remain out of reach of the Word of God. Let us make haste and bring the Word of God to them, through the ministry of our priests, deacons, and bishops, helped by all of us, which surely will bring many to the salvation in Christ.
Through the laying of hands, the bishops pass down the Holy Spirit that the Apostles had received at Pentecost, which become the foundation of the authority our bishops and priests today have, for their authority is not human or worldly authority, but authority that comes from God Himself. That is why priests today have the authority to forgive sins when we come to them for confession, just as the Lord Himself said to the Apostles after His Resurrection : “Receive the Holy Spirit, and those whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven; and those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” Through this, the Lord with the Holy Spirit pass down His authority to forgive sin, and to heal the sick, to the Apostles, and from them down to even the humblest and least of priests today. Therefore, let us always pray for our priests that they will remain holy, pure, and steadfast in their faith in God, that they can carry their mission to the best of their abilities.
We too can play our part to help our priests and bishops, with all the simple things we can do. We can help provide for our priests, and we can also help him to reach further and beyond in his ministries, maybe through transportation or other means of help, and most importantly, we can also pray for vocations! Remember, the Lord Himself said in the Gospel today, how though the harvest is indeed plentiful, and yes, there are still millions out there waiting for the ‘fishermen’ of the Lord to catch them, and to bring the Word of God to them, but sadly, the labourers, that is our priests, are getting lesser and lesser in numbers. The temptations and obstacles of the world prove too much for some to overcome, including family resistance and peer pressure, which can ruin an otherwise brilliant candidate for the priesthood, and how sad it is when we lose a potential priest, just because we do not support him, who could have saved a thousand souls for Christ, and many, many more.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray fervently that the Lord will bless His Holy Church with plenty of faithful and holy bishops, priests, and deacons, and devout young men, dedicated to God, that one day, they may choose to follow Christ and pledge themselves to Him in sacred priesthood. Amen.