We frequently hear it said, ‘Holy Mother the Church is full of sinners.’ It is indeed a mystery of the Church. It is a mystery in paradox. (‘mystery’ meaning, something believed as a matter of faith). Jesus said to Simon, the son of Bar Jona, “You are Peter, on this rock I will build my Church.” Jesus affirmed Simon as the “rock” well knowing that Peter was in fact a weak person. Peter manifested his weakness, frail and impetuous nature often during his “Formation Years” with Jesus, as we witnessed in the story of his denial. Peter reflects our nature. This is the origin of the Church! The mission of the Church is to remain holy and an instrument of sanctity for all people of God. As Catholics, we try to be faithful to the mission of sanctifying the people of God and the world. More so, we believe in the saints, their Holy life, their intercession and their inspiration.
The Church’s mission of sanctifying the people of God is the central theme in many calls of the Church since Vatican II. Continuing the spirit of the Council for Pope Benedict, it is the raison d’être of the New Evangelization—to renew our faith is to become holier day-after-day. And as the Church strives for holiness, it studies the lives of holy men through the well-established institution “the Dicastery of the Causes of Saints.” Church insists on our vocation to holiness right at the moment of our Baptism. Our call to holiness comes through the cleansing waters of Baptism. Holy Mother the Church is our faithful companion in our journey of holiness. It guarantees our salvation and our personal and communal holiness.
One of the four traditional marks (one, holy, catholic and apostolic) of the Church is holiness. The Old Testament gives ample witness to God’s election of a people, to his choosing a people for his own and making them holy. The Old Testament is replete with incidents of individual and corporate election. God often calls individuals, like Abram, but God also calls a whole people to himself from all of the nations. Election always involves holiness: holiness and election are two sides of a coin. St. Peter proudly called the first members of the Church, “a holy nation, royal priesthood and people set apart…”
As the Mother Church administers us with baptism and initiates us to a life of holiness, she continues to nurture us through other sacraments, liturgy and other pastoral activities. Life of holiness necessarily means that we are morally upright; we distinguish good and evil, right and wrong. It is being perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. As said before, it is our baptismal call—it is our mission and vocation.
Popes of our time, particularly Pope Benedict XVI kept reminding us that we be faithful to our call amidst secularistic, materialistic and consumeristic ideals that tint our vocation to holiness. In his encyclical Verbum Domini of 2010 urged us: “The Church, sure of her Lord’s fidelity, never tires of proclaiming the good news of the Gospel, and invites all Christians to discover anew the attraction of following Christ.” (VD, 90). This is New Evangelization. It is basically an effort of the Church to sanctify people and re-consecrate them to God.
Among the four traditional marks of the Church, Holy—holiness seems to be the indispensable. It is the “one thing necessary” of the Church. Unity, Catholicity and Apostolic nature are certainly important, but to lose the element of holiness—sanctity, sacredness, religiosity, blessedness, piety…is to lose everything of the Church. Our Mother the Church remains holy and will keep growing holier, only if you and I try daily to become holier. Because ‘Holiness is for all’.
By Fr. Lazar Arasu SDB
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