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Father Muench Says...

Guiding us to sainthood

February 1, 2023

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Last week, I got back to remembering and again investigating the documents of the Second Vatican Council. I continue to realize why our Catholic Church is strong and alive. The Second Vatican Council renewed our foundation. I find such a joy as I read again these important documents. I thank God for the Council; it had such a profound effect on me and my ministry as a priest.

Today, I plan to share with you again the powerful message of the Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium). The Council here reminds us just what we mean by Church and challenges us as Church to bring everyone to the holiness that Jesus meant for us all.

This document begins by reminding us that as Church, we are a people, the people of God. The Council fathers write this: “God has willed to make men and women holy and save them, not as individuals, but rather to make them into a people who might acknowledge him and serve him in holiness.”

Then the Council offers support and challenges the hierarchy of our Church – pope, bishops, priests and deacons of our Church. The Council reminds us that the hierarchy of the Church must remain strong in bringing the Lord’s love and peace and holiness to all the people of God.

In this regard, the Council reinstituted the office of the permanent deacon. In every place in the world, men are invited to join in the work of the Church as an ordained deacon to assist pastors in the life of the parishes of our Church – assisting at liturgies, preaching the Word of the Lord, celebrating baptisms, weddings, funerals, joining in the ministry of bringing Christ’s holiness to all.

This Council spends much time in reminding us that holiness is what we are called to as the people of God. Jesus loved the Church. Jesus gave himself for the Church to sanctify all people. We believe that God sent the gift of the Holy Spirit to the people of the Church throughout all time. All in the Church – the hierarchy and all those cared for by the Church – are called to holiness.

Jesus spoke of holiness to each disciple without exception: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Followers of Christ are made sons and daughters of God through the baptism of faith, making us all partakers of the divine nature, truly sanctified by the Lord. We are all called to live in the perfection of love.

We believe God is love. He who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. God has poured his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who gives us the necessary gift of charity by which we love God above all things and love our neighbor as ourselves.

So, as Church, we are called to live as a holy people. Each of us must willingly hear the Word of God and carry out his will with the way we live our lives – by being Church, by partaking of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, by applying ourselves to prayer, self-denial and service of others. Love is the bond of perfection and the fullness of the law of our Savior.

This document then summarizes the Church as the Pilgrim Church. The Church, to which we are called by our Savior, Jesus and in which by the grace of God we acquire holiness, will receive its perfection only in the glory of heaven when Jesus draws us to himself. The Church will guide us to our earthly goal of becoming a saint. With the Lord’s help, this goal will be a reality for us all. Why are we disciples of the Lord? To become saints.

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