What an interesting sequence of Gospel readings we have when we look at last week’s Gospel reading and then the one for this week. We read last week that Jesus told the Apostles: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And then He breathes on them and says: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
We see here that Jesus sent the Apostles as the Father sent Him, with the power to forgive, or retain, sins. Now, when we look at the specifics of how Jesus was sent we find that he was sent not only with the power to forgive sins but that He can confer this power to others as seen in Matt 9:6 where even the scribes and publicans were in awe that God had given authority to forgive sins to ‘human beings’. Notice the plural. Not just to Jesus but to ‘men’, plural.
What other powers did Jesus give the Apostles? Well, in Mark 6 we find that Jesus, “[c]alling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.” (v.7) Jesus gave them authority over impure spirits. We also find in Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus gives the Apostles the power to bind and loose infallibly (“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Mat 18:18) Since whatever they bound or loosed on Earth would also be bound and loosed in heaven because we know that nothing untrue can be bound or loosed in heaven.
The context in each of these selection of verses makes it clear that Jesus gave this power to the Apostles and not to all followers. This is why we know that for this power to be here in His Church until His return means that the power to confer this power to others must have been given to them as well. This idea of ‘succession’ is found in many different places in Scripture but the clearest ones are found in today’s Gospel reading. “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to [Jesus].” (Mat 28:18)
Jesus was sent with the power of heaven and earth and confers the power to forgive and retain sins, authority over impure spirits and the power to bind and loose infallibly. I also contend that the Apostles were also given the power to confer these attributes to others who would succeed them since we know that the Apostles were described as the authority in the
Church. Just have a quick look at Matthew 18 and you’ll see what I mean. Speaking to the twelve Jesus tells them: “if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (v.17-18)
And because we know that the gates of hell will never prevail against His Church means that this authority to bind and loose infallibly will always be present in the world, which means that there will always be those who have authority to bind and loose infallibly in the Church, at least until His return. For this to be possible tells us that the power confer these attributes to others was also part of what was handed down to the Apostles from Jesus Himself. Jesus was sent with the power to impart the powers to bind and loose, to forgive or retain or authority over impure spirits because we read in today’s Gospel that “[a]ll authority in heaven and on earth has been given to [Him]”. This tells us that the Apostles received the power to impart these same powers to others as well.
The handing on of these powers has always been done through the laying on of hands throughout the centuries via there successors all the way to today’s bishops beginning with Jesus handing on this authority to His Apostles and they to those who would succeed them.
Prepared by a St.Denis parishioner