Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Saint Blaise Blessing of Throats
In the Creed, which we sing or recite every Sunday and on important feast days, we profess belief in “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” These four characteristics are often referred to as the “marks” of the Church—the characteristics which will set God’s true Church apart from all others. It is simply a matter of logic that if God sent His only begotten Son to establish His reign on earth, the organization He left behind would have those characteristics.
We know, in fact, that He intended to leave an organization on earth after His ascension because He told Saint Peter: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.”[ii]
We know that His Church must be One, because God Himself is one and unchanging; the “Father of Lights, in whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration.”[iii] One would have to imagine something as preposterous as a “schizophrenic God” to admit the possibility that He established a number of differing systems of belief and morality for His people.
“Catholic” is a word we borrow from Greek, meaning “universal.” If the Church must be One, it must also be Catholic or Universal. God is the God of all mankind—not just of the Jews, or the Greeks, or the Romans. Our Lord Himself told us: “this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony for all nations.”[iv] and He ordered the Apostles to “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.... Go into the world and preach the Gospel to every creature ... he that not believeth shall be condemned.”[v]
“Apostolic,” of course, refers to fact that the Church derives Her authority and Her powers from the men appointed directly by Christ to lead His Church. She can trace Her lineage back to Clement, Cletus, Linus, and Peter—and thus, ultimately, back to Christ Himself.
Finally, we say that Holiness is a mark of God’s true Church. Again, this is a matter of simple logic. The Church reveals the mysteries of God’s own holy being, and conveys God’s moral principles to mankind, and dispenses the sanctifying graces of Christ’s Sacraments. The Church must be intrinsically holy, for She is chosen by God to communicate His holiness to men and women.
Yet, in modern times, there is probably room for more uncertainty about this mark of the Church—holiness—than about the other three combined. (Unity, or oneness, is a close second, but that must be the topic some other time.) The fact that the Church Herself is holy does not insure that all of her members and leaders will be personally holy people. History can provide us with any number of examples of unholy people at any level within the Church we may care to examine—unholy laymen, unholy priests, bishops, and even Popes. Our own times may be bad, with many Catholics having no better morals than their pagan neighbors, with financial, moral, and doctrinal scandals within the clergy—our times may be bad, but they are not unique. The Church as a whole has always been able to foster great holiness, even in the most immoral of times.
In the Gospel today, our Lord tells us that “The kingdom of heaven is likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field....” Obviously, our Lord is talking about the “kingdom of heaven” as it is established right here on earth—in heaven there will be no bad people trying to frustrate the efforts of the good—our Lord is talking about nothing other than His Church. In the less-than-perfect existence of men and women in God’s Church there always will be, so to speak, “weeds among the wheat.” We are all called to be saints—to conform our wills to the will of God, so as to attain the happiness of heaven—but there will be bad people, scattered in among the saints of God.
“How can God let this happen?” is a question we hear often in our times. “Why does not a plague wipe out those who teach false religion and moral laxity, while calling themselves Catholics?” “Why do not lightning bolts fall from the sky to stop those who would scandalize the young, and those who would murder in the womb?” “Why are not those who steal from the Church and Her widows and Her orphans and Her poor taken up by the whirlwind, never to be seen again?” “Why does God not act?”
The answer is clear from today’s Gospel. Lightning bolts, and plagues, and whirlwinds, and such things are not very precise instruments. Indeed, violence itself is usually not very precise. It is no different with God than it is with men—no matter how “smart” the bomb, no matter how “sharp” the shooter, there is often collateral damage. We would certainly be even more dismayed if God routinely used the forces of creation to “take out” the bad people while showing no regard for the good. God is like that man who owned the field into which he had sown good seed—He knows that it will do less damage to let the weeds grow for a while, than to try to uproot them in the midst of the wheat.
And remember that God is not inactive among us—He has not abandoned those who cling to Him. His truth, His morality, and His Sacraments are far more powerful weapons than all of the lightning bolts in the world—and far more precise. If we hold to those three things, we can be holy no matter what is going on in the world around us— His truth, His morality, and His Sacraments.
The Church is holy in her members: Those publicly known—the canonized saints; Those unknown, yet saints in heaven; Those holy people yet on earth—those of both high and lowly station—who sacrifice and pray and devote their lives to doing God's will, spreading His word, and sanctifying themselves with His Sacraments.
Remember, once again, that we are all called to be saints. Do not be disturbed by the unholy in the Church. They are here in fulfillment of prophecy—they are “the weeds among the wheat”—ultimately, they will be gathered into bundles to be burned.
Simply strive to be sure that you are counted among the wheat, rather than among the weeds. Know and keep the Faith; know and keep the Commandments. Come frequently to Mass, to Confession, and to Holy Communion. Do good works for the love of God—love your neighbor.
Don't be among the cockle, bound into bundles to be burned at the end of time. Make sure you are among the wheat, gathered into God's storehouse for all eternity.
“All, whatsoever you do, in word or in work ... all things do you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”[vi]
[i] Gospel: Matthew xiv: 24-30
[ii] Matthew xvi: 13-19.
[iii] James i: 17.
[iv] Matthew xxiv: 14.
[v] Matthew xxviii: 19; Mark xvi: 15, 16.
[vi] Epistle: Colossians iii: 12-17.