June 2007 - Volume 11, Issue 11
The Holy Spirit will guide us and the powers of hell will not prevail against us. In this promise of Jesus, the Church, as a living community of believers, discovers its bearings and its hope as it marches through the ages. The mysterious movements of the Spirit make the Church holy; the faltering strivings of its members make the Church human. Together the Church is whole. The Body of Christ functions in ways too numerous to treat fairly in this article. We, however, are capable of rallying to its mission to proclaim the good news for the salvation of souls, to recognize its power to sanctify and to heal all who seek its graces, to support its efforts to serve those in need, and to accept its invitation to intimacy with Christ.
The liturgical seasons with its feasts and solemnities highlight the glories, the struggles, the pathways, and the pitfalls characterizing the journey of the faithful. Being a member of the Body of Christ is not for the weak and the variable. Ironically, it is material such as this that the Lord chooses and fills with the courage and strength of the Spirit. From this labor the great personages of the Church have arisen. These men and women have impressed on the pages of human history the mark of Christ still active. And from their efforts, an untold multitude of faithful have followed them giving to the world Christ's presence.
Everyone wants to feel a sense of accomplishment in life, an awareness of having contributed to some higher purpose. The world's models of success and achievement have their rightful place, but not the place. Someday, all of the laurels of victory will fade. It is then that, in all humility, we would like to be assured that we have done well in the eyes of God. We hope that we have given to life something that has mattered, that has eternal significance in the unfolding of God's plan. In our own small way, we would wish our life to be judged to have moved the Body of Christ along its destined path.
The double-edged swords of freedom and power are wielded by all throughout their lives. The ends for which these gifts are used either aid in realizing God's plan or result in frustrating it. The fruits of God's love are available to all. In total freedom of will, one must choose to possess it or to reject it. How risky and yet how wise is that divine strategy. One must own one's faith and take the responsibility for making that faith visible or to discard it and accept the consequences of a Godless existence. Love is the product of a freely disposed heart and mind. God bears the risk of not being given the love of His creation and His creation bears the effect of refusing that love.
Christ and the Church: If he were to apply for a divorce on the grounds of cruelty, adultery, and desertion, he probably would get one.
- Samuel Butler
In spite of the traitorous acts of some, the Church produces abundantly those who are truly heroic, sacrificial, and good. Holiness is a crown dearly won. People of a secular mind, lacking faith, are quickest to pick up stones to fling at the faithful who have stumbled in their moral lives. How odd that those who apply few or no moral norms to themselves demand perfection of others. In my opinion, they simply are attempting to validate the dead creeds of their lives by castigating those who are seeking the truths of a living faith. Warts and all, give me the devout believer every time.
The panoply of virtues and vices lies before us. These moral options in life are like colors from which we choose in creating our self-portrait. The Church is a vital community committed to choosing wisely. Yet, as members of that community, we often choose foolishly. Thus, the image of the Church as a great hospital to which the casualties of life may come to have their wounds bound and find healing is most apt. Credit must be given to those who have chosen correctly. For those, the image of the Church as a juggernaut smashing through all obstacles, sailing toward a holy port would suffice. Metaphors, notwithstanding, we thank God for the Church's presence - our presence - as a beacon in a world so often devoid of light.
We live in every land, we speak every language, we encompass all races, and we worship the One - as one people. Let us then cling tightly to the hand of the Holy Spirit and pray for the love and wisdom, the help and hope, the healing and assurance that only the living God can bestow on the living force that are His people, His Church. We!
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