WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Archbishop Richard Smith says the Church's holiness is due to the presence of the Holy Spirit.
The Church is the creation of God and we are called to be stewards of this creation, says Archbishop Richard Smith.
"We exercise our stewardship of this creation of God by recognizing that its essential features – one, holy, catholic and apostolic – are in the first instance God's gifts to us but, in the second, a task that he asks us to fulfill."
Smith discussed the four marks of the Church in part five of the seven-part series on the Nicene Creed at the Catholic Pastoral Centre April 10.
The Church does not possess these characteristics of herself, he said. "It is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes this Church one, holy, catholic and apostolic, and it is he who calls it to realize these qualities. The Church is the creation of God."
Reading from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Smith said the Church is one because it has as her source and model the unity of the Trinity of Persons in God. Jesus Christ re-established the unity of all people in one body.
However, because of God's plan for one Church, Catholics must pay attention to ecumenical work. "For Christians to be divided is contrary to the will of God," the archbishop said.
Even more immediately, the challenge before Catholics is to maintain the unity of the Church itself, said Smith.
"The Fathers of the Church put it very strongly and clearly. Sin against unity is a sin against charity, which is a very grave matter."
We are also clear in saying "the Church is unfailingly holy," which immediately raises questions in people's minds.
How can we possibly say the Church is holy? "Because the Church is indwelt by the Holy Spirit," he said. "Christ is the head of the Church, we are the members. Christ lives within us through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit."
But because of the constant tendency within us to repeat the first sin and to let trust in God die, "we are always in need of reform," he said.
Catholics, Smith said, are called to embrace Christ's call to holiness, which in practical terms means embracing the call to discipleship.
"Discipleship means first of all an inner attachment to the person of Jesus Christ, without whom we cannot live, without whom we have no hope. It's a deep inner attachment that leads to transformation, to change."
The second dimension of discipleship flowing from this inner attachment to the person of Jesus is obedience to his teachings.
However, we cannot talk about a life of discipleship without embracing the mystery of the sacraments, Smith said.
"In the sacraments, we encounter the love and the mercy of God and it is this encounter with love, this encounter with mercy, which touches, heals, transforms and gives us the desire and the strength to carry on this life of holiness, this life of discipleship."
The archbishop also looked at the last two marks of the Church – that it is catholic and apostolic.
"When we say that the Church is catholic what we mean is that the Church is universal and intended to be universal in all places and in all times," he explained.
Smith said Jesus Christ died to gather into one all of God's children that had become scattered through sin. "No one is outside of God's saving intention; therefore no one is to be outside the Church's concern and the Church's embrace."
The Church has the imperative from the Lord to grow, to be out there in the world, he said.
Smith said the Church is apostolic in virtue of the fact its faith comes to us from the Apostles.
It is also apostolic by reason of its structure in that she is taught, sanctified and guided by the Apostles through their successors who are the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter.