by Joe Bollig
One of the great comedy lines of all time is a quip Groucho Marx allegedly penned to resign from The Friars Club of Beverly Hills: “I refuse to join any club that would have me for a member.”
Some clubs are very exclusive. For these, you have to have a lot of money, distinguished ancestors, be in the “right” social set or have political power and “connections.”
Contrary to what some believe, the church is not so exclusionary. To be a Christian, all you have to be is “born from above.”
It can be both simple and complicated, like being a paratrooper: All you have to do is jump out of the airplane.
Clearly, there’s a lot more to being a paratrooper than this. The same goes for being a Christian.
To be “born from above” or “born again” is to be baptized. “From the baptismal font is born the one people of God of the New Covenant. . . . By one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body,” says “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” the catechesis for the World Meeting of Families, Sept. 22-25 in Philadelphia.
That “one body” is the Catholic Church. The church has been called the bride of Christ, heavenly Jerusalem, the virgin bride of Christ, the people of God and the body of Christ.
The church has also been described as “holy” and “immaculate.” But how can that be, since people sin even as members of the church?
The mystery is that the church is “at once holy and in need of purification. Her holiness is the holiness of Christ, her spouse. It is the love of Christ, the bridegroom, that creates the church in the first place,” says the catechesis.
Praise God, the holiness of the church doesn’t depend on our virtue or achievement, but the self-giving love of Christ! No sin by any member can invalidate the identity of the church or her holiness, because it doesn’t come from us — it comes from God.
Also, “the truths taught by the church cannot be annulled by sins committed against the dignity they proclaim.” Rather, our sins remind us of the need to repent and proclaim these truths ever more faithfully.
Married couples have a key role in carrying out the witness of the church. Like the church in general, married couples are called to live lives that are continually transformed by the love and grace of Christ, given to them through the sacrament of marriage.
As Pope Francis said, “Grace is not given to decorate life but, rather, to make us strong in life, giving us courage to go forward. . . . Christians celebrate the sacrament of marriage because they know they need it!”
Editor’s Note: Catholics throughout the country have been invited to join in the 10-month preparation for the World Meeting of Families this September in Philadelphia. This reflection is based on the ninth chapter of the meeting’s catechesis, “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”
Questions to consider
- How does God’s covenant protect us, even when we sin?
- Everyone sins, including Catholic leaders. So why do we say the church is holy?
- What does Jesus want us to do when the church fails to live up to his standards?