The mission of the Church is to proclaim Christ to the world. The world has always needed this proclamation, and it is no different today. Our best, most credible proclamation of Christ comes in the form of witness, by the way we live, as much as by the creed we profess.
Many of our cultural challenges today will be solved only with a proper understanding of the human person. Christian anthropology is an appreciation of the truth that every human person is created by God. This is the foundation of our human dignity and sanctity of life. Our relationship with God defines who we are and gives meaning and purpose to every human life.
Each of us is a child of God. God draws forth each human person from His infinite love. God created us for love, and destined us to return to an eternal relationship of love with God. Every human life is sacred, from conception to natural death. The dignity of each human person as well as their sanctity of life flows from his or her divine origins.
As Christians, we believe that we are not only made by God, in God’s image and likeness, but also that through the Church and the sacraments, Christ takes up his dwelling in us. To grow in holiness means to become more like Christ. This is our common vocation, this is God’s will, that we grow in holiness. (1 Thessalonians 4:3) This high dignity and calling of the human person has implications for all our relationships.
Building upon this understanding of the human person, St. Paul continually challenges his readers to treat one-another with respect, humility, patience, forgiveness – in short – to be kind (Christ-like) to one another. (Ephesians 4:1-2) In Baptism, Christ enters our very being, and seals us with the bond of his Holy Spirit. We take Christ into our very bodies every time we receive the Eucharist, not to change his Body and Blood into ours, but to change our lives more perfectly into his!
Embodying Christ, we are called to engage the world with hope and love. Rather than entering our communities with a sense of fear, we are to look for the good in our neighbor. Granted, the present levels of discord, disrespect, division and violence do require that we be prudent, but we are sent into the world as hopeful disciples of and witnesses to Christ none-the-less. If we as Christians are not willing and capable of building up the human family who will?
We are a missionary Church, meaning we are sent into the world to build the Kingdom of heaven. “You too go into my vineyard.” (Mt 20: 4) God does not want us standing around idle, nor does he want us working solely for the things of this world. “Why do you stand here idle all day?” (Mt 20: 6) As Jesus was sent by the Father into the world, so Jesus sends you and me in his name.
In the Letter to the Philippians (1:27) St. Paul says: “conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Ours is a beautiful calling from God. Christ has taken up his dwelling in you and in me. Once we truly understand this, we will live with greater self-respect and contentment. Christ conquers all our fears, and gives us the grace to accomplish all things. (Philippians 4:13) In Christ we are free to serve Christ in others, treating them with the same dignity and respect that we desire and hope for our self.
Think of how this Christian understanding of the human person then transforms how we treat one another; how it elevates our conversations, no matter what the topic. The Gospel impels us to work for the common good of all people, leaving behind selfish interests.
Jesus Christ is our hope, our joy, our way, our life. Our life-journey of faith is a gradual process of dying more and more to self to allow Christ to live more fully in and through each of us. In short, as God gave us the gift of his only Son, and as Jesus made a gift of himself for our salvation, every Christian is to ‘go out of himself’ to make a gift of self to others in return.
Please allow me to conclude with another quote from St. Paul: “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13: 11)
Such is the mission of the Church, and the lofty calling that we share in Christ!5