Sunday, August 09, 2020

The wolves behind

Sermon for the ninth Sunday after Trinity

When a clergyman leaves his post there is often great sadness. The good clergyman will be missed and he will receive many goodbyes from those who love him. It is also an occasion of concern: will his replacement be any good? The good clergyman will be concerned with who comes after him. Surely it's none of his business, though. He surely doesn't get a say in how the parish is run after he's gone, does he?


St Paul is leaving and will never see Asia again so he calls the priests and bishops of Ephesus together to bid them goodbye and to warn them. There are wolves coming.

The concern of the good clergyman is that his flock will cope with his departure. He knows that he must move on and that his flock must continue without him. He knows that his parish is not about him but must be directed towards God. His departure may be sad but it should not be devastating. 


The good clergyman will have prepared for his departure by being faithful to God in the exercise of his duty and teaching his flock in the Catholic Faith. The parish that is well-educated, seeks to love God and neighbour, and prays together will know God better. This means that they are protected from the wolves. What wolves?


Our Lord speaks of the ravening wolves that will attack the flock and St Paul remembers this. These are the fake bishops and priests. They may very well be validly ordained and have all kinds of qualifications; they will be very charismatic and charming; they will appear to be the real deal. They will have only their own interests at heart.

St Paul takes great pains to show that he has worked hard for the Church. He does not live off of charity but makes tents to sell and earn his living. He has been concerned with supporting the weak - those who are poor physically, and those who are poor spiritually.

By this, the Church can recognise a good clergyman. This is not the clergyman who vaunts himself, his clothes, his learning, his connections, or his authority. This is the clergyman who comes to serve, to give God's grace freely, to preach the Gospel and show how to live the Gospel.

In recent years, the good name of "bishop" and "priest" has been sullied by those who live off of those titles, who mislead to their own advantage and who have performed abominable acts on the innocent. The bishop who is not a chief servant is in danger of damaging the flock. Of such a bishop, the Lord says it would be better for a millstone to be tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea.


No clergyman is a perfect human being. They are human and not one of them is infallible. The good clergyman will be as ready to confess his sins as those whom he teaches to confess their sins. The good clergyman will be aware always of the responsibility he bears to the Church and will beg for prayers that he may not turn into a wolf but rather serve it to his own detriment.

And he will teach the flock well so that, when his time comes to leave, they are prepared for the possibility of a wolf behind him. 

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