The Church: A Vessel for all on the Journey to Heaven
She is as glowing as the moonlight and as radiant as the noonday sun. She is as gentle as the song of the birds at dawn, and she is as vigorous as a raging river. She is as quiet as a lonely street and as vibrant as the colours in her stained-glass windows. So unique, so wide, so beautiful and so daring is the Church and all who open themselves to her treasures.
In hidden corners and in public circles many speak of the Church as a mystery to be solved. In the distance, we hear the jingling of the keys to the kingdom of God being given to St Peter. And he, that rock upon which the Church is built, receives from Christ our Lord a promise: “…and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” And so, holding fast to this hope, she stands — a rock amidst troubled waters, a vessel for earth’s pilgrims who journey to the heavenly Jerusalem.
In the Nicene Creed, we profess that the Church is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic”. I tend to mumble through these words and often forget their meaning. So rarely do we contemplate the nature of the Church, which is her sanctity and her humanity. How paradoxical that is at times.
There is the all too familiar inclination to leave behind our humanity in the misguided belief that doing so will make us fully alive in God. Oh, what clever deceit and weightless untruths there are out there. It should sadden us that this is what people think when they hear the word “church”.
When we tiptoe through the Gospel of Matthew, we find along the shore a man going about his daily business, net in hand awaiting his catch. There, unbeknown to him, in his midst is the Son of God. The Lord Jesus looks upon him with the eyes of the Father. The Word utters to Peter, still toiling under the sun, and calls to him. And Peter turns to meet the gaze of Jesus. He sees the hand of Christ, the high priest, the head of Christ, the king who will wear the crown of thorns, and hidden in Christ’s sacred heart.
An eternal fisher of men
Peter, the fishermen, turns to behold the body of Christ. It is a foreshadowing of his role in salvation. Peter will forever serve Jesus as the fisher of men. And here is a prime example of what can happen when we bring our humanity to divinity. Far from being diminished or nullified, our being is transformed, raised, and made fully alive.
We know how the story ends — or rather, how it begins — as there is still so much unfolding. There is brotherly love, divine revelation, vehement denial, reconciliation, and finally acceptance of the mission. Let us go forward in joyful wonder at the Church triumphant alive in her saints, at the Church suffering seen in the holy souls of purgatory, and in the Church militant here on earth guiding pilgrims along the way to the risen Christ.
Sacrament of Salvation
Holy beacon of light
Call out to every nation
Implore the Saviour’s might
Guide to eternal peace
Our hearts with truth do wrestle
When ends our earthly lease
We’ll praise the pilgrim’s vessel.
This article was published in the July 2021 issue of the Southern Cross magazine
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