Today at our parish, the Bishop of Allentown celebrated the feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. The gospel reading was from Saint John: "On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
I find it very interesting that the first thing Christ did on his return at Pentecost was to give them the Holy Spirit and the authority to forgive sins. Surely he intended this ability to not end with this first generation of believers as much as he did not intend the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to end with them as well. I am not sure how I understood this verse as a Protestant, because it only makes sense in the context of the Catholic Church and the priesthood instituted by Jesus.
It's always a thrill to see the bishop no matter how many times I have seen him because he represents the unbroken succession of apostles since the original twelve. They layed their hands on their disciples and the priesthood continued onward for 2000 years. Some modern bishops can trace their succession back at least 500 years!
In the 100 AD, Saint Ignatius of Antioch said this
“See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery(priests) as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church”