Br. Peter Trinko
Our world is currently going through an intense crisis of identity and crisis of meaning. As we have continued to conquer the world through technology and effort, we are at the same time suffering untold trauma from the lack of a real foundation of our lives. In a time that demands more and more certainty, we have never experienced such doubt and uncertainty.
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone of faith. As the Second Vatican Council stated in Gaudium et Spes, “The truth is that only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light” (GS 22), but our culture has relegated Jesus Christ...
and His Church to something private and personal that is not to be shared, expressed, or lived beyond the confines of one’s home. Leaders in our society will be as daring to profess their faith, their membership in the Church, and yet teach and promote ideas that are contrary to this same faith.
The saints understood there could be no dichotomy between personal belief and public belief. There can be no ‘me the private person’ and ‘me the member of society’. There is only me. But this is not enough to solve the issue of personal identity.
St. Teresa of Avila often said in her final days, “I am a daughter of the Church.” She considered her membership in the Church a core part of who she was. Why did she say this? Why the emphasis on the Church? What does it mean to be a member of the Church? What even is "the Church"?
To answer these questions, we first need to have a deep and true understanding of the reality that is the Catholic Church which is the focus of Part I of this blog series.
Part I: Understanding the Mystery of The Church
When we think of ‘the Church’, we might think of an administrative body, a hierarchal structure, or perhaps just a building. But to truly understand what the Church is, we really ought to go to Sacred Scripture.
When one reads the Bible with faith, it becomes clear that it not so much us seeking God, but rather it is God who seeks us with a deep and personal love. The first reflexive thought of God found in Scripture, that is, a deep personal insight to the very nature of God, we hear “Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” (Gen 1:26). Not done out of any necessity, but from a great love, God creates us and then, after our first parents’ fall, He immediately seeks us “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9).
God’s plan is to unite all things in Christ. But how?
It is part of God’s plan, His great mystery of love, that man might share in the very divine life of God (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). We read in Ephesians that God “has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will, according to His purpose which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in Him”. God’s plan is to unite all things in Christ. But how?
The Second Vatican Council, which declares Christ the “light of the Nations” (LG 1) goes on to say, “God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness.” Blessed Marie Eugene, writing on the mystery of the Church says, “God’s design is to save all men without distinction by making them all one with Christ Jesus, in the unity of His mystical body. Already in eternity, God contemplated the whole Christ, the church, and took delight in it as the masterpiece of His mercy.”
This is the Church! It is the “whole Christ”. It is the masterpiece of God’s mercy. It is both the means and the end of our salvation. We are to be united to Christ through His Church. What a mystery!
We find many references to the Church in the Old Testament: Noah and his family escape the corrupting world of sin through the Ark; Abraham is made the father of many nations through his faith; Moses and the Israelites are freed from slavery of Egypt and brought through the water of the Red Sea. Time and time we see a familiar image: the people of God, led by one man, to be “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6).
God’s design is to save all men without distinction by making them all one with Christ Jesus, in the unity of His mystical body. Already in eternity, God contemplated the whole Christ, the church, and took delight in it as the masterpiece of His mercy
This is the Church. It is no mere human institution, but rather is the people of God called to share in His life, the fullness of life. It is the universal sacrament of salvation (Lumen Gentium 48) and the mystery of God’s Divine Mercy and personal love for each one of us. It is the Church, the bride of Christ, who gives us the true life, and for this reason she is also Holy Mother Church.
It would serve us well to often mediate on the great mystery of the Church. All the saving and sanctifying graces that Christ won for us on the cross are poured out through the Catholic Church. Through an interior life of prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments of, we can grow in holiness and deeper in our relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.