St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

Pastoral Visit

Pastoral Visit                                                                         -Homily from January 10, 2016

 

We will have the Pastoral Visit of Bishop McGrattan next weekend. The Bishop will not only celebrate all the Masses, but he will also visit the schools, some institutions, Brookside, some home bound parishioners, all the groups of the parish. I think it is important to say a few words about his visit, in order to prepare ourselves for such an event in the life of our parish. First, what is a Bishop according to the II Vatican Council. Then, what is the meaning of the Bishop’s Pastoral Visit.

 

1. “Christ the Lord, Son of the living God, came that He might save His people from their sins and that all men might be sanctified. Just as He Himself was sent by the Father, so He also sent His Apostles.

 

“In this Church of Christ the Roman pontiff, as the successor of Peter, to whom Christ entrusted the feeding of His sheep and lambs, enjoys supreme, full, immediate, and universal authority over the care of souls by divine institution. […] The bishops themselves, however, having been appointed by the Holy Spirit, are successors of the Apostles as pastors of souls. Together with the supreme pontiff and under his authority they are sent to continue throughout the ages the work of Christ, the eternal pastor. Christ gave the Apostles and their successors the command and the power to teach all nations, to hallow men in the truth, and to feed them. Bishops, therefore, have been made true and authentic teachers of the faith, pontiffs, and pastors through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to them.

 

“Bishops, sharing in the solicitude for all the churches, exercise this episcopal office of theirs, which they have received through episcopal consecration, in communion with and under the authority of the supreme pontiff.  […] All are united in a college or body with respect to the universal Church of God. They exercise this office individually in reference to the portions of the Lord's flock assigned to them, each one taking care of the particular church committed to him.”

 

2. So to receive the Bishop means that a successor of the apostles is coming. A bishop could track his apostolic succession until one of the twelve Apostles: from one apostle, to the next Bishop, to the next, and so on until the Bishop that ordained him. He has been sent by Jesus, he has a seal within him, a consecration from the Holy Spirit. A Cardinal is usually also a Bishop, and the Pope himself is the Bishop of Rome. They are true leaders of the Church, in the sense of true fathers, true shepherds: like Jesus, who came to serve and not to be served, they also must give their lives for their sheep.

 

A pastoral visit, therefore, is a reason for joy. It is not an inspection, although the bishop will certainly see if things are going well or not. The Bishop is coming to do his job, to be a pastor. St. John Paul II used to say that the main apostolic ministry is the visit, to visit people: to go where they are to see what they need and give it to them. The bishop, then, comes to give and to receive.

 

He comes to give. He comes to give us the body of Christ, he will feed us, he will celebrate the Mass with us. He is coming to teach: he will preach the Gospel in the name of the Church, that Gospel that has been entrusted to the Church by Jesus. He is coming to exercise his leadership: he needs to know the places he has to look after, he needs to know the needs and the challenges, he has to know our strengths and our resources, in order to better serve the common good of the diocese.

 

The Bishop is coming to receive. He comes to receive encouragement from your faith, from your support, from your readiness to follow him as Spiritual Pastor. He comes to know the challenges we face, our needs and our strengths; he comes to see the diocese through your eyes, he needs to arrive to the places where you are, he needs to be enriched by your experiences. Finally, he makes himself available to listen to what we need to say.

 

Most of you will see him only at Mass, but many of you will meet him in the several meetings he is going to have. Please let us receive him with faith. Bishops, like priests, are human beings, but they are a gift from God “for the building up of the Body which is the church.” Bishop De Angelis used to say: “No priest, no Eucharist”; but no Bishop, no Church. Jesus wanted his Church to be Apostolic, and this is the reason why the Church is one. We do not look at the human being, but to the gift of God, to the ministry.

 

The visit of our Bishop is a moment to celebrate that we are Catholics. In fact, we mention him at every Mass because he is the warranty, the surety of our communion with the Church: he is the chief shepherd for us, appointed by Peter. Enjoy his visit, say hi to him, welcome him, talk to him if you want, ask him to pray for you or to bless you…  May the Lord grant us a good visit with him.  –Fr. Andrew