11th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
July 18, 2023
What is Magisterium? We can describe Magisterium as the living teaching office of the Church, and this authority is vested in the Pope, as the successor of St. Peter, and all the bishops in communion with him. Magisterium comes from Latin ‘Magister’ and means ‘teacher.’ This is to highlight its primary function: to teach the people of God the authentic interpretation of the Word of God (see CCC 85).
Why do we need Magisterium to teach us? When we learn about wrong mathematical formulas, it may have terrible consequences in our lives, like loss in business or flaws in architectural designs. When we believe in false teachings in matters of faith and morals, we may surely put our souls in precarious situations and lose our eternal salvation. Thus, Jesus instituted an office to preach and guard the authentic teachings and interpretation of the Word of God. This office is known as Magisterium.
Only teaching? Though Magisterium is essentially a teaching authority, its functions are not limited to teaching true faith and morality but also governing and sanctifying the people of God. We can compare it to the teacher in the classroom. The role of a teacher is not only to teach her students but also to put proper order in the class, to impose sanctions if necessary, and ultimately to make sure her students possess the essential knowledge and skills. We may say that a teacher is also the leader of the class, and thus, Magisterium serves the leadership role of the Church.
How did Jesus choose the Magisterium or the leaders of the Church? In today’s Gospel, Jesus chose the twelve men to be His disciples and apostles. Why did He choose them? The Gospel gives us the context. When Jesus saw the crowd, He realized they were sheep without shepherds. Jesus understood that the people need shepherds, leaders who guide, protect, and provide. Jesus knew well that human communities always look for leaders-shepherds. Otherwise, they will fall into chaos and anarchy. Thus, Jesus chose the twelve apostles to share in the authority and responsibility of the Good Shepherd to prevent lawlessness and bring the sheep to green pasture.
Why twelve? Jesus did not just randomly pick men according to His favorite number. In the Jewish context, twelve is the number of the tribes of Israel, and by deliberately choosing twelve men as His apostles, Jesus intended to establish the New Israel. However, unlike the old Israel, the leaders are no longer based on the bloodline (the twelve sons of Israel) but by divine appointment and sharing in the divine authority of Jesus. And, because they were sharing in Jesus’ authority, they could preach the Gospel, cure the sick, and fight off the demons.
Are they meant to last? Like the leadership of old Israel did not cease to exist when the twelve Israel died, the Magisterium did not disappear when the twelve apostles died. Why? Because they have successors, Pope and bishops. While it is true that not all bishops are saints and skillful shepherds, they remain parts of the Magisterium established by Christ Himself. Thus, it is our duty as sheep to listen to our shepherds, support and pray for them.
Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP