Words of wisdom from the “Apostolic Doctor”: SECTION TWO, DISSERTATION ONE…
II. The Church, accordingly, is called holy as if that were its title and epithet, not because all its members are holy and only the chosen of God and no sinners can be found in it, as many of the new sects and dogmatists like to pretend, but because true holiness of life and doctrine can be found only in the Church. In the Church of God not all Christians are holy and righteous and, in fact, many are despicable sinners. Yet if not all are good, neither are all bad. The Church is somewhat like the ark of Noah in which there were found not only clean animals but both clean and unclean. It is like the Lord’s threshing floor where along with the wheat one finds also chaff: He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. The Church is that field of the Lord in which throughout the wheat there are weeds sown, which will be gathered together at the time of harvest and bound into bundles to be burned. It is also that net thrown into the sea that encloses all kinds of fishes but eventually only the good will be retained whereas the bad will be thrown away. It is that wedding feast where one can find also some without a wedding garment and, consequently, they will be cast into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. The Church is also like that group of ten virgins of whom five were wise and five were foolish. It is made up of all the servants who received talents from the Lord and among whom are some who receive their talent but bury it. Again the Church is the sheepfold of the Lord, in which among the sheep there are also goats that will be placed on his left on the day of judgment.
Still, even though not all Christians are holy, nevertheless, the Church remains that household of God, as Paul writes to Timothy: In a large household there are vessels not only of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for lofty and others for humble use. If anyone cleanses himself of these things, he will be a vessel for lofty use, dedicated, beneficial to the master of the house, ready for every good work. However, as I said, not all Christians who belong to the Church of God are saints, for many – alas, far too many! – are sinners, leading a life not at all in keeping with the name of Christian. Yet, only the community of Christians is called holy and referred to as a holy nation, a people of his own, for true holiness is found only among Christians. Outside the Church, it is true, a certain semblance of holiness and piety can be found, for even among pagans and heretics many will be found who, judging from their moral virtues and the uprightness of their lifestyles, might seem to be and might be said to be living a holy life, but as Paul says, they make a pretense of religion but deny its power, for without faith it is impossible to please God. Unbelievers who live virtuously, and there are many such who can be found even among the pagans, such as Socrates and men of that caliber, might best be called imitators of the righteous.
Among all humans only Christians are called holy, just as among all animals only humans are called rational, not because all humans use their reason and live and act in accordance with the prescript of right reason, since many lack the use of right reason, but because only humans have a soul endowed with reason enabling them to live and act in accord with sound judgment. Every human is called a rational animal not because each and every part of a man is capable of reason, for only his mind and intellect but not his flesh, nor his body, nor the vegetative and sentient faculties of his soul, are capable of reason. Every human is called a rational animal, therefore, because among all the animals man alone has a mind and intellect. In the same way, I say, among all human communities, only the community of Christians is called holy in Scripture, because true holiness among humans is found and can be found only in the true Church of Christ.
Just as in a rational man there are also many parts that lack reason, in the holy Church there are many Christians lacking in holiness. They live on the natural plane, devoid of the Spirit, and do not understand what pertains to the Spirit of God, for they are like those parts of a man which have no reference to his immortal soul but only to the body itself which is subject to death and decay. Again, just as a man, as long as he is a man, cannot be without a rational soul, so the true Church of Christ cannot be lacking the Spirit of Christ which sanctifies a man, since the Spirit was given to the Church to remain with it forever. He will give you another Advocate, Christ says, to be with you always, the Spirit of truth.
posted June 29, 2020 Feasts of Saint Peter and Paul
click here for last week’s selection from Brindisi and a commentary that followed: “Vatican II and the Heretics”