Is the church holy?

Christ the Good Shepherd. Christ the Good Shepherd.

Immaculate sinners

“Even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)      

“Between the porch and the altar let the priests weep, let the ministers of the Lord weep and say: ‘Spare your people, Lord! do not let your heritage become a disgrace, a byword among the nations! Why should they say among the peoples, “Where is their God?”’” (Joel 2:17)

How much pain have your ministers inflicted on your beloved sheep, Lord! Wounded by their own shepherds and abandoned to the wolves. What a deep and lacerating shame! Oh, tender and noble Shepherd, we have failed you! Only you, with your endless power, can heal those fatal wounds! Only you, with your unfathomable wisdom and mercy will forgive us and continue to trust us! Only you never regret giving us the gift of your incarnation, your presence among us, the power to minister your grace. Making us missionaries, trusting us with the keys of your kingdom, knowing of the risk of us distorting it all or leaving it unfinished!

You, Lord, chose to die on the cross so that a new wisdom and a new life would arise. Your wisdom is one that surpasses our human intelligence, and your life, one that is above and beyond our earthly and mortal existence. You founded your church on Peter and his fellows’ runaway, arrogant and fragile passions, so that all the generations to come would discover that you are the only and true foundation, and that the church is your work and not the work of men and that “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) You sustain it, in spite of our sins, and you purify it constantly, so that one day you will present it to yourself, holy and without blemish.

You, Lord, did not need our help to build your church, but you chose to use our fragility. Moreover, you chose to use our sins, so that your divine mercy and wisdom would shine bright in the darkness of our minds, hearts and bodies.

How painful it must be to your loving heart to see your church become a derision to those who yet do not accept you, and we your missionaries are at fault. We, your shepherds, who have not learned yet your skills on how to be Good Shepherds. Preparing ourselves in your purity, tenderness, patience, and in your compassion. We need you to purify our ears so that we can hear the crying of your sheep; we need you to sharpen our vision so that we can see rapacious predators; we need to nourish ourselves with your body and blood so that with your courage we can face and overcome the dangerous abyss.

How many of your sheep have we lost forever! You must now be feeling the agony and solitude that you felt in the olive garden! As you invited your disciples then, I believe that you are also inviting us to stay awake and pray that we will not fall into temptation, as you did not fall. You are inviting us to succeed, as you succeeded in persevering during critical times of agony.

Your divine love, oh good Jesus, makes us immaculate in spite of all our sins! The abundant renewal of your mercy continuously washes away our iniquities, purifying your church and healing the wounds of each and every one of the sheep in your flock. You never abandon your sheep, regardless of how astray they may go. Through the centuries, you have provided and will continue to provide us with wise and loving shepherds. You, Jesus, will continue to bring to your flock sheep with the sharpest senses, so that they can find new pure and holy pastures. Defeating the plagues of lust, hedonism and immediate pleasures with healthy appearance undermining internal defenses.

Thank you, Lord, for Pope Francis and for all those stealthy shepherds who care for your flock and in your name continue to guide them to new and holy pastures. Pastures that make them romp with joy and health. Mary, your mother, keeps teaching us to recognize your sweet and loving Shepherd voice that calls us by our names so that your holiness in us may be a gift of mercy to your church and to the world. Forgive our foolish resistance to your wisdom and continue to purify us, Lord, until there is no stain or wrinkle in us and we are worthy to be presented before you.

Read the Spanish version of this column.

Northwest Catholic - October 2018

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo

Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.

Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., es obispo auxiliar de Seattle y vicario para el ministerio hispano.