Sun, 8 November 2020
(Ti.1:1-9; Ps.24:1-6; Lk.17:1-6)
“Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Or who may stand in His holy place?”
“He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.”
Of priests and holy men our readings speak, yes, but most especially of bishops, who are most entrusted with the Word of God, with the preaching of the Gospel of eternal life… and how silence in this regard leads but to condemnation.
Paul sets the standard for the “servant of God.” He presents himself “as an apostle of Jesus Christ for the sake of the faith of those whom God has chosen and to promote their knowledge of the truth as our religion embodies it.” Here is the bishop in sum. Here is the priest in sum. Here is the sum of any sent to teach in His name: increase the faith and knowledge of the flock. And in this service certainly a priest must be “irreproachable,” and “the bishop as God’s steward must be blameless.” He must be “steady, just, holy, and self-controlled. [And] in his teaching he must hold fast to the authentic message, so that he will be able both to encourage men to follow sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it.”
But how many of our leaders hold to Paul’s words? How many encourage the keeping of sound doctrine, and, perhaps more to the point, how many refute error? Worse yet, how many travel merrily along with the error of the day? “If your brother does wrong, correct him,” Jesus says. But how many tell their flock, “You should not fornicate or commit adultery” or “You should not abort a child or contracept him” or “You should not be ‘self-willed or arrogant, a drunkard, a violent or greedy man’”? And how many freely engage in sins such as these themselves? Yes, Jesus says, “If he repents, forgive him” (even “seven times a day”) of the brother in your care; but how can he repent if he knows nothing of the wrong he does, and how can you instruct him if you are committing the same sins as he? And so where is true forgiveness?
“Scandals will inevitably arise, but woe to him through whom they come.” It is a terrible warning the Lord gives today, particularly to those entrusted with much, for how great will be their punishment for the abuse of their call. And of course, the source of such travails in the wayward soul is simply a lack of faith. Not “the size of a mustard seed” or a speck of dust is the faith of too many. If even it could be detected with a microscope it would show itself in good works. But it is not there. And so, who indeed shall climb the mountain of the Lord? How many vainly grovel at its base? And if our leaders do not climb, how shall any follow? So, who shall come to holiness?
Let us awaken to the call of our God! Let the Church serve as His presence in this world. Let us be “the race that seeks for Him,” putting holiness before all else. And let the ordained among us lead us in this way.
O LORD, let us be men of faith
who carry your Word forth blamelessly,
that all may come to see your face.
YHWH, how shall we serve you if we have not sinless hands or clean hearts? And so, how shall we find our reward in your kingdom? Will we not rather be cast into the sea for our unfaithfulness, for our failing to hold to your true teaching and leading others astray? Help us who are far from you. Forgive us our sins.
Do we not travel blindly in this day, dear LORD, lacking the guidance of holy shepherds? Does your people not suffer for lack of knowledge of you and your ways? Is the truth not hidden from our eyes by the silence of your teachers? And are many not led away from you by their example?
Who is there that stands in your stead; who climbs your holy mountain, making a way for others to follow? There are a few, no doubt; but are there not more who are afraid to speak in your NAME? Help us, LORD, for your Church shall be lost without the guidance of good shepherds. Encourage all souls to seek your face, and so find the blessings of Heaven.