Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Joe
September 10, 2023 - 11:00 AM
Today’s Mass is a Mass for the election of a new Bishop for our Diocese — the Diocese of Knoxville.
Canon law offers some definitions surrounding the authority and the responsibility that belongs to a Bishop.
A bishop is defined as being three things:
first, a teacher of doctrine,
second, a priest of sacred worship,
and third, a minister of governance.
These three authorities and responsibilities relate to what are called the munera, which are powers that pertain to being configured to Christ, who is priest, prophet, and king. And that is what these three definitions of the Bishop relate to, they relate to the Bishop as being what the Church calls “in persona Christi Capitis,” as being in the person of Christ the Head, which brings with it these authorities and responsibilities, these duties that come with representing the Lord.
The Bishop receives his power of being a teacher of doctrine from Christ’s prophetic office, the bishop receives his power of being a priest of sacred worship from Christ’s priestly office, and the bishop receives his power of being a minister of governance from Christ’s kingly office.
Notice that with these powers come responsibilities.
We may think of the popular phrase from Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
The full phrase from Uncle Ben that is given in the comic books is “With great power there must also come great responsibility.” And I think the word “must” is significant here, because I think it can help to drive home a necessary point about power and responsibility.
By thinking in terms of moral goodness, we can come to see why great power is necessarily tied up with responsibility.
Sticking with the Comic Book theme, we can see that someone like Batman has what could be called “great power,” because of his physical strength, and at the same time we can also see that a villain like Bane also has what can be called “great power.” What makes the difference between a Batman and a Bane is how they make use of this so-called “great power.” One uses it for good purposes, the other uses it for bad ones. It’s the proper use of power that defines the meaning of “great power” when Uncle Ben speaks about power in relationship to responsibility. Uncle Ben isn’t simply speaking about the capacity to effect something, but he’s speaking about the capacity to effect something well. Truly great power, for Uncle Ben, involves using one’s power for the good, which is an intrinsic responsibility for the one who has power. Instead of thinking of responsibility as the suit that the superhero wears, responsibility is more like the heart of the superhero — the heart is always a part of the superhero, just as responsibility is always a part of what is properly called “great power.” Such is the case when speaking about a power that is not only efficacious but that also achieves the good for which that power exists. So, there can be no fulness of great power without the proper use of that power, which involves being responsible with the power that is given.
When our new Bishop is chosen, he will be given great power, with which there must also come great responsibility in the good exercise of his powers of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling.
As we await our new Bishop who will come to act in persona Christi Capitis, we can turn inwardly and ask ourselves how we can be like John the Baptist and help prepare the way for our new Bishop. One way in which we are already doing this is in our prayer for our new Bishop that we are now praying at the end of Mass. This is a great way for all of us to bear our own responsibility as members of the Body of Christ. Now, while we don’t have any canonical obligation to pray for our Bishop, we do have the command from our Lord to love one another as He has loved us. By praying for our next Bishop, we make real and we make known our love and our desire for him to be a holy man, to be a wise man, and to be a man of concern for the well-being of the people whom he shepherds.