Saturday, November 14, 2015

Loving the church

Archbishop José H. Gómez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez 

Our faith in Jesus Christ is deeply personal. But we do not have faith as solitary individuals. We do not believe on our own.

From the moment of our baptism, our faith in Christ is lived in the company of others who believe in him, in the fellowship of the church on earth and in the communion of saints in heaven.

These past two weekends I’ve had the privilege to dedicate new altars at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Los Nietos and St. Raymond in Downey.

And as I was praying and talking with my brothers and sisters in these parishes, I started thinking about our love for the church.

Our relationship with the church begins in the sacrifice that takes place on the altar.

The altar is so much more than a table placed at the front of the church building. Human hands made the altar. And the human hands of the priest offer bread and wine on the altar. But every consecrated altar is Christ’s altar, the altar of his sacrifice.

What happens at the altar brings us into the mystery of Jesus Christ’s love for each of us, and his love for his church.

St. Paul said that “Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her, to sanctify her … that she might be holy.” On every altar, every day, Jesus comes once more to hand himself over for his church. To feed us and to show his love for us, and to make us holy.

What happens at the altar joins us to Jesus and to one another. The altar makes us one church — the family of God.

Sometimes we can make the mistake of only seeing outside appearances of the church, the “trappings” of the hierarchy, the organizational structures, church buildings.

But the church is a spiritual reality, one of creation’s deepest mysteries, the center of God’s beautiful plan for world.

The church is God’s plan for the world.

God’s plan is to make the world into one family — to share his love to ends of the earth and to make his church a place where everyone can live as sisters and brothers, as children of God, as one family in his Son, Jesus. To proclaim the good news that God is our Father and to invite men and women of every nation to be baptized and to live as children of God and brothers and sisters in his family, the church.

This is the mission of the church, of every child of God.

So we can never make the mistake of trying to imagine a false division between Christ and the church. They will say things like, “I believe in Jesus but not in the church.” Or, “I believe in Christ, not the pope.”

But we cannot separate Christ from his church any more than we can have a Christ without the cross. The church is the family we are born into, the home where we draw life.

It is true that the members of the church — including the pope, the bishops, priests and religious — are all human. So we have sins and weaknesses. The church is a family we are born into and there is no family that does not have human failings. But in every family we try to love one another and help one another to overcome our failings. And in the family of the church we can turn always to our Father for mercy and the grace to begin again, to love as Jesus loves.

So God made each one of us to find our true home in the church. God has a beautiful plan that he wants his children to share with the world. It is a “family plan” because God wants us to make the whole world one family of God.

So let’s pray for each other this week. And let’s ask God to increase our love for his church — so that we are more united to Christ and to one another and more dedicated to our mission of sharing God’s mercy and love with others, with inviting them to join us in the family of the church.

And let’s ask our Blessed Mother Mary, the mother of the church, to pray for the church and for the pope and all who serve the church.

Archbishop José H. Gómez is the fifth archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by and appears in The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez at (213) 637-7000, or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments that are derogatory, attack others or are offensive in nature may be removed. We reserve the right to remove any offensive or off-topic remark.