One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church
It is relatively easy for most of us to hold fast to our confession of faith in God the Father Almighty and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life. But maintaining our faith in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church can often prove to be among the most challenging aspects of our life in Christ. Our exalted (and entirely true) understanding of what the Church is can easily lead to disillusionment when we also find that the Body of Christ, our participation in the eternal life of the Holy Trinity, is comprised of sinners who, like us, can be selfish, unloving, worldly, ungrateful, neglectful, offensive, faithless, cliquish, unholy…even immoral at times. All the sins to which mankind is prone can be found in the Church of the Living God. This should not come as a surprise if we truly know ourselves as we are known by Christ. Yet, it can present a challenge to our faith. At such times (and they will come sooner or later) we must beware to resist the temptation to look around us at what others are doing and draw the conclusion that faith in Christ and union with him in his Body makes little or no difference.
When these doubts are expressed to others, it is common to hear that “it has always been thus in the Church.” Although this may be true, it will not excuse any one of us if we neglect so great a salvation (Heb 2:2–3). In such times of doubt, we do well to meditate on the Saints whose lives we commemorate throughout the liturgical year and with whom we also share communion in Christ. When faced with the indifference or outright sins of their brethren, they persevered in faith, remained steadfast, and proved to be powerful examples of faith that others sought to emulate. It is fitting for us also to remember that we do not (and cannot) know the end of others’ lives, regardless of what they may appear to be at any given moment. Peter openly denied Christ. Paul was a persecutor of the Church. Saint Mary of Egypt was a seductress and lover of the pleasures of the flesh… There is always hope in Christ for everyone, just as there was hope for us when we were dead in trespasses and sins. Above all, we do not consider the sins of others. We remember, rather, our own sins and the infinite mercy of God toward us.