Knowing that He would soon be going to the Father Jesus entrusted His mission to His closest disciples - the Apostles. He first ordained them priests who would act on His behalf when in Luke Chap 22 we hear Him tell the Apostles "This is my body" and "This is my Blood" and commanding them to "Do this in memory of me".
By commanding them to do the same He thereby gives them the power to celebrate Mass in which the Bread and Wine will be changed into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ Himself. Then knowing that after He returns to heaven the faithful would be left leaderless, Jesus establishes a church with a leader who would continue His work and guide the people.
In Matthew chapter 16 Jesus makes Peter, the first Pope, the head of His church on earth when He says "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church". In John chap 21 Jesus tells Peter to guide the flock and to teach them when Jesus tells him "Feed my sheep". In Matt chap 28 Jesus tells the Apostles that He will never leave His church when He says "I will be with you always, until the end of the age."
And then Jesus gives His Apostles, who are the first Bishops, the authority to act on His behalf in spiritual matters in His church when in Luke chap 10 He tells His Apostles "Whoever listens to you, listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me." In John chap 20 Jesus gives the priests of His Church the power to forgive sins in His name when He said "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. He breathed on them and said to them "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them. Whose sins you shall retain they are retained." This breathing on them is quite significant because the only other time that God breathes on anyone is when He created man.
Jesus gives to His Church the power of loosing and binding or in other words to make decisions and to rule His church on earth on Jesus' behalf when in Matt Chapter 18 Jesus says "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven".
The apostles ordained others to help them. The church began to spread throughout the world. Bishops were ordained here and there and they in turn ordained priests and deacons to help them.
We read in Acts 6 "the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them", and again in Acts 13 "they laid hands on them and sent them off". Paul ordained other priests to assist him as we read in Acts chap 14. "After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.
They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith saying "It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God."
They appointed priests for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting , commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith." And this handing on of the faith and the authority to preach the truth in Christ's name by appointing and ordaining priests in every church continues even to this day. Father Kaz and I are both ordained ministers of the church. He is a priest and I am a deacon. We were ordained by a Bishop. This Bishop was also ordained by a Bishop who was Himself ordained by a Bishop who was Himself ordained by a Bishop.
Bishop after Bishop after Bishop going all the way back 2000 years to the Apostles and to Jesus Christ Himself. It is an unbroken link to the very first beginnings of the church. Just like a genealogist would do we could trace our spiritual roots all the way back to the Apostles who were ordained by Jesus. This handing on of the teachings of Jesus Christ and His teaching authority over the centuries by ordaining ministers without a break in it's 2000 year old history is called Apostolic Succession.
What authority does the Church have to ordain minsters? It has no authority except that which was given to it by Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus gave His authority to His Holy Church at the very beginning and that Christ' power is handed down to the Church from generation to generation through this Apostolic Succession.
The church was a reality and was flourishing 400 years before the bible even came into being. In fact, it is through the authority of the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church that we even have a bible. In the 4th century after Christ, it was the Bishops of the Catholic Church who gathered together and decreed which books were divinely inspired and which ones were not. This was ratified by the pope.
1 Timothy 3:15 the Bible tells us that "the Church of the living God, is the pillar and foundation of the truth." From the very beginning the Catholic Church has been celebrating the Liturgy of the Mass with the Holy Eucharist as the central part of our liturgy. Holy Communion, where we receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ Himself. This is not a symbolic gesture but rather the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Himself as Jesus says in Luke Chapter 22 "This is my Body".
Catholics take these words just as Jesus meant them to be taken. Quite literally and that is why the Catholic Church considers the Eucharist as the centre, the source and the summit of our Catholic Faith. In Acts chapter 2 we read St. Paul telling us that "They devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles, and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers."
Which is exactly what we continue to do today in the Mass - we gather together as a community, we listen to Holy Scripture and to the Sermon and then receive Holy Communion or as they called it in the early days of the Church, " the breaking of the bread". The Apostolic or Early Church Fathers, that is those who were taught by the Apostles themselves or their immediate successors and were themselves ordained by the Apostles or their immediate successors as Bishops - the Apostolic Fathers tell us about the Mass that was celebrated in those very first days.
When we read their writings we can readily see that today's celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist models very closely the Liturgy of the Eucharist as was celebrated by the early church in the very first days. Our Sunday celebration is not so much focused on the preaching and the music as it is on the Eucharist. This is the centre of our celebration.
In the early church Paul tells us that they gathered together as a community. So do we. They listened to the Word of God and to the teachings of the Apostles proclaimed in their midst. We just listened to the word of God proclaimed in our midst and are now listening to the Homily.
They devoted themselves to prayer and to the breaking of the bread. We also are devoting ourselves to prayer and soon we will be breaking the bread and receiving Holy Communion. From the very beginning of the church and for over 2000 years, the Catholic Church has celebrated the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Jesus Christ gave His church the command and the authority to do this and to pass on to others the Authority to continue to do this in His name.
Jesus Christ commissions His Church and commands it to spread the Good News. In Matthew Chapter 28 "All power in Heaven and earth has been given to me....Go...make disciples of all nations... teaching them to observe all that I commanded you". So it is under the authority of Jesus Christ that the Catholic Church worldwide endeavors to continue to do exactly that... to do this in Memory of Me and to teach, not just our local church, or not just the church in this country but all over the world, teach all nations to observe all that He has commanded us to do.
Deacon Bernie Ouellette