|Calling of Peter and Andrew|
The second reading, in the Office of Matins for today, is a homily by St Leo the Great titled “The Special Obligations Of Our Ministry”. In it St Leo says, “Although the universal Church of God is constituted of distinct orders of members, still, in spite of the many parts of its holy body, the Church subsists as an integral whole, just as the Apostle says: We are all one in Christ. No difference in office is so great that anyone can be separated, through lowliness, from the head. In the unity of faith and baptism, therefore, our community is undivided.”
St Leo the Great’s pontificate began in the year AD 440 and ended in AD 461. The significance of St Leo's pontificate lies in his assertion of the universal jurisdiction of the Roman bishop. St Leo was a significant contributor to the centralisation of spiritual authority within the Church and in re-affirming papal authority. According to St Leo and several Church Fathers, as well as interpretations of the scriptures, the Church is built upon Peter, in pursuance of the promise by Jesus.
“And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."”
What I find amazing is that, despite St Leo being credited as having played such a significant role in re-affirming papal authority, St Leo says so clearly in his homily, “We are all one in Christ. No difference in office is so great that anyone can be separated, through lowliness, from the head.”
In light of the constant cry, by women’s rights groups and various other members of the Church, for the ordination of women priests, supposedly to end “discrimination against women”, I cannot help but wonder if they have lost sight of the fact that “all, regenerated in Christ, are made kings by the sign of the cross; they are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy Spirit, so that beyond the special service of our ministry as priests, all spiritual and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and are sharers in the office of the priesthood.”
Have we lost faith in the divinity of Jesus? Jesus, true God, would most certainly have known that, in years to come, these human rights issues, like the discrimination against women, would surface and become a challenge for the Church. One simply cannot believe on the one hand that Jesus is true God and then deny that he would have known about this future challenge.
So why did Jesus not appoint women as Apostles at that time when he appointed the other Apostles? Can we not just accept that Jesus, God, appointed all male Apostles for reasons that he, God, in his infinite wisdom, knew best? There is no doubt in my mind that to argue for the ordination of women, is to argue that our Lord Jesus made a mistake and that, in turn, is therefore to argue that Jesus was not true God.
As we remember today St Leo and his work in re-affirming papal authority and the unity of the Church, I think we should be renewing our commitment to accept and follow the guidance of the Pope and the bishops in all matters, because they are the successors of Peter and the Apostles, appointed by God.
We should also not forget that “all spiritual and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and are sharers in the office of the priesthood” and that is what is truly important, not what our human status is, or is not, in the hierarchy of the Church or in the world.