might wonder just how the sheep are able to know their shepherd. But every
time I start giving my opinions about animals knowing or willing anything I
seem to get in theological trouble. And, of course, I cannot claim to know
as much about sheep as I do about cats. So today, I will address only the
question of how our Lord’s two footed sheep are supposed to know Him.
answer is rather simple—we recite it every Sunday and on many weekdays when
we say the Nicene Creed. Every time we do that we list the characteristics
by which we know the Church founded by Jesus Christ, which is a reflection
of our Lord’s own characteristics. In the Creed we say that the Church is
“one,” “holy,” “catholic,” and “apostolic.” It doesn’t take very much to
recognize that these adjectives also identify the Church’s Founder. Indeed,
the “marks” of the Church derive from the very nature of Its Founder.
true Church is one, just as God is one. God is unchanging and
indivisible—immutable over the centuries. “The Father of lights, in whom
there is no shadow of change, nor alteration.” There is no difference of
opinion among the Persons of the Trinity—nor, for that matter, can we even
speak of consensus—for God’s knowledge of Himself and everything He created
is part of His divine essence. There are no discussions to be made, no
arguments, and no votes taken.
know God in His Church wherever we see this same unity of unchanging truth.
What the Father has revealed to us through Jesus Christ always was and
always will be. There will never be any change about the number of Persons
in the Trinity, God will always be the only God and the almighty God, God
the Son will always be the Redeemer of the human race, the Holy Ghost will
remain its Sanctifier, Blessed Mary will always be the Immaculate Virgin.
We will know the Good Shepherd and His Church in this never changing unity
true Church is holy, just as God is holy. Again, holiness is not something
that is up for discussion or consensus—but, rather, holiness is a part of
God’s unchanging essence. We participate in that holiness (or should
participate in it) by knowing and keeping the natural moral law and all
divine positive law. As God is unchanging in His holiness, His law does not
change from generation to generation among His creatures. The idea that
“the Church must change with the times,” or that “modern man has been freed
from the moral obligations of previous days,” is just nonsense when we talk
about the law of God. There never was and never will be a time when the
Commandments and their underlying moral law will cease to bind. We will
know the Good Shepherd and His Church in this never changing rule of
true Church is universal, just as God is the God of all lands and peoples.
Since there is but one God, there cannot be one church for the Europeans,
another for the Africans, the Asians, nor for the Americas. As God is one
and holy in His essence, so too is He universal, as must be His Church.
This will be true even if, someday, we colonize the planets. We will know
the Good Shepherd and His Church in this universality
true Church is apostolic, for Peter and the Apostles were the chosen vessels
for God’s revelation of Himself to mankind. Likewise they were the vessels
of God’s sanctifying power in the Sacraments. Without the truth, holiness,
and sanctification conveyed to and through the Apostles it is meaningless to
speak of God or His Church. We will know the Good Shepherd and His Church
in this link with the Twelve.
is said that while he was Pope, Saint Pius X visited one of the seminaries
of Rome, and asked the students how the Church could be identified. Quickly
they responded with the four marks mentioned in the Creed—the Church is
“one,” “holy,” “catholic,” and “apostolic.” The Pope smiled and asked,
“What else?” The students were very unsure, but finally one triumphantly
stood up and said, “The Church is Roman!” To which Pope Pius
condescendingly replied, “Yes, of course. And thoroughly loyal to the See
of Peter. But what else?” The Pope had to answer his own question. “The
Church,” he said, “is persecuted.” We know the true Church, for just like
Its Founder It is despised by those of the world. If, impossibly, It were
ever to become popular with the politicians and power brokers It would cease
to be the Church—something which our Lord promised would never happen when,
at Its founding in Cæsarea Philippi, He promised that “the gates of Hell
shall not prevail against It.”
Saint Peter told us in the Epistle, “Christ … suffered for us, leaving you
an example that you should follow in His steps. If we are to be the sheep
of the Good Shepherd, we must strive to follow Him in all these things.
As we practice the Catholic Faith there will be inevitable sufferings and
inconveniences, but we must also be certain our lives reflect the other four
characteristics mentioned in the Creed: “one,” “holy,” “catholic,” and
“apostolic”—with unchanging truth and morality, received from the Apostles,
the same throughout the world. Then the Good Shepherd will recognize us and
take us for His own.