Authority of the Church. 2

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Authority is given to the Church to effect salvation

In the previous article  we learned that the authority of the Church comes from Jesus; that he bestowed that authority on the Apostles and their appointed successors so they can teach in Jesus’ name. What is then the objective or mission of the Church, now that it has been given this awesome authority? That mission is to work with Christ to save mankind.

Matthew 20, 23-28 — But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The Gospel shows how Jesus gives to his disciples the grace of peace with these words:

John 14, 27 — “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”

The grace of authority is given in the same manner and the disciples have to use it in a different way, not like the world. The Church uses authority to save souls, to make them free. The Church is not authorized to rule despotically, to kill and subjugate like the rulers of the world do. The Church is left in the world to guide men to freedom by making them children of God.

Romans 8, 28 — “because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

Before the Last Supper Jesus took time to teach his disciples a very important lesson that Catholics remember every year during the Easter celebration.

John 13, 3-17 — Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “You are not all clean.” When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Notice how Simon Peter has to unlearn the ways of the world, gently allowing his Lord and Teacher to wash his feet, a task usually reserved to the lowest servant in the house, perhaps a young child. The way of the Church is one of humble service to our fellow man. Our Lord has served us, and loved us all the way to the Cross. The Church is not greater than her Master; her life must be a life of service and sacrifice. The washing of the disciple’s feet points at the power to remove sins. The feet that take the Good News to the world have to be clean. Consider in the following verses the difference between the feet of the messenger of salvation with the feet of those who are inclined to rush into sin.

Isaiah 52, 7 — How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!

Proverbs 6, 16-19 — There are six things which the Lord hates, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers.

The Lord Jesus washed the feet of the disciples to teach them the ways of humility in the exercise of authority. The Church is obliged to live by that standard of humble service and sacrifice set by Jesus.

The Church has authority to reconcile sinners with God

The authority of the Church aims to reconcile all men with God, to be an instrument of service to mankind always seeking the salvation of men. All the actions of Jesus Christ recorded in the Gospel are directed at the salvation of souls. It is not different with the Church. The authority received from Jesus and the first Apostolic Body survives in the Church along with the mission to save souls.

Catechism of the Catholic Church §1444 — In imparting to his apostles His own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ’s solemn words to Simon Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”[1] The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head.

Consider how that divinely given authority is central to answer all the challenges against Catholic doctrines and traditions. The Church affirms to be the one true Church founded by Jesus, who passed his authority to the apostles so they could bring the Good News of salvation to mankind. Those men and their successors have the authority to “reconcile sinners with the Church” by the power and authority of Jesus Christ. In the same manner they can absolve sins, dispense indulgences, teach the ways of Christ, and even liberate people under the power of demons. As we have already learned, the Church teaching is infallible when teaching doctrine, and morals. Under the guidance of the Bishops in union with the see of Peter, the Church guides the flock of Christ through the ages, interpreting Scripture, administering the Sacraments, and representing Christ on Earth until He returns in glory.

Next article Authority of the Church. 3


[1] Matthew 16, 19.

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