How can this blemished church be Christ’s Church? How can this mountain of sinners be the city on a hill?
The Catholic Church has many critics today. They often point to scars from the past and to wounds still healing in the present, as they attack her goodness, her beauty, and her truth. From that very real human perspective–from the view of history, from the view of wounded people–the Church looks quite bad. There are so many marks on her, collected over 2000 years.
These critics look with honest eyes, yes, but they look only with those eyes. They fail to look at the Church with the eyes of love. Our Church is rife with human failure, but our Church is not exclusively human. It is also Divine. It is filled through by Love Himself.
As I write this, I’m sitting in a hospital room beside my wife’s bed. She doesn’t look her best. I see that. I see her weakness. I see the IV in her arm. I see the blankets and cuff and sensors. I’m not blind–of course I see them all. To point out any of those things would be perfectly honest, but it would be lacking. I see more than that. I see my wife. I see my bride. I see her beauty and her goodness.
That’s not just words. That’s not just what I’m “supposed to say” because I’m married. No, that other vision, that higher vision, is really there. It’s a view of another layer and one deeper than the surface. It’s what the grace of marriage and the eyes of love allow me to see. And it’s a hint of how Christ sees His Church.
The Church is the Bride of Christ, and He looks on His Bride with the eyes of love. How can He not, who is the very source of love? “Viewed from the outside, the Church is only a historical institution with historical achievements, but also mistakes and even crimes – a Church of sinners. But that is not looking deep enough.” (YOUCAT question 124)
There is beauty mixed in with, and deeper than, the ugliness of sin. There is a layer far deeper than the surface, and even if the surface is thick with human failure and sin, that deeper layer remains. The eyes of love see through to it. The eyes of our God see through to it. They see the spotless Bride of Christ that is– like Her Bridegroom–beautiful and true, even while marked over with wounds.
Copyright © 2014, Joe Wetterling