When Jesus began His public ministry, His teaching was a radical departure from what the Jewish people were used to. St. Mark comments on the authoritative nature of The Lord’s teaching in the following passage:
Jesus came to Capernaum with His followers, and on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. (Mk 1:21-22)
Some 2000 years later, what has happened to the authoritative teaching of Jesus? Many Non-Catholic Christian churches can’t agree on important issues such as homosexuality, birth control, abortion and euthanasia. Almost all claim to follow the teachings laid out in the Bible, but disagreements on such beliefs as the real presence of Jesus in Communion, the ordination of women and the necessity of Baptism for salvation are common. Amidst all of the “noise”, one voice remains clear. Jesus still teaches authoritatively through His Catholic Church!
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), Jesus tasked the Apostles with carrying on His mission:
Christ the Lord, in whom the entire Revelation of the most high God is summed up, commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel, which had been promised beforehand by the prophets, and which he fulfilled in his own person and promulgated with his own lips. (CCC 75)
They carried out their mission orally and in writing:
In keeping with the Lord’s command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:
—orally “by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received—whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit”—in writing “by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing.” (CCC 76)
The Apostles then appointed the bishops to carry on their work:
In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them ‘their own position of teaching authority.’ Indeed, the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time. (CCC 77)
This ensures that the message of Christ will continue to be proclaimed, with the full authority of Jesus, until the end of time:
The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living, teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. (CCC 85)
What a blessing it is to have the guidance of the Church. When developing technology makes it necessary to confront the morality of issues such as cloning, embryonic stem cell research or end of life dilemmas, The Catholic Church speaks with the single voice of Christ. While other churches, all claiming to follow the inerrant teaching of the Bible, disagree with each other over these issues, we can turn to the one true source of constant teaching. Just like the early followers of Jesus, we are blessed to hear the clarity and authority of Christ speaking through His Church. When we listen to the voice of the Church, we hear the voice of Our Lord, just like those people in the synagogue 2000 years ago. Do we listen to His voice with the same sense of awe?