Today we honour the memory of Saint Josaphat, an Eastern Rite bishop, honoured as a martyr to church unity because he died trying to bring part of the Orthodox Church into union with Rome. He was canonised in 1867 and became the first member of the Eastern Church to be formally canonised as a saint of the Latin Church.
Traditionally, today’s first reading has been understood as a prophecy paving the way for the Messiah. Wisdom is described here as the “image” of God’s goodness, and it tells us that wisdom passes “into holy souls from age to age”. But let’s look at this passage from another angle. Let’s see how these verses might be used to describe the Church.
Saint Paul tells us that God’s plan all along was that the “wisdom of God might now be made known through the Church” (Ephesians 3:10). We can see, also, how God wants the Church to become “the spotless mirror of the power of God,” and how the Church is meant to be holy and unique. As members of the Church we are called to reveal the wisdom and power of God to everyone around us.
And yet even a cursory look at the Church today would reveal a different picture. We see division, financial mismanagement, even abuse and cover-ups. In the world, the Church is viewed with scepticism and suspicion rather than with respect and reverence. And no matter how much we may want to blame the media or worry about anti-Catholicism, we have to admit that much of the criticism is understandable, given the criminal and sinful actions of some members of the Church.
It’s true that none of us fully lives up to the picture painted in today’s first reading. But it’s also true that every time we come together to celebrate the Mass, every time we reach out to the poor, or every time we work toward taking down the walls of division, the Church shines.
It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to make the Church holy. But it is our job as well. Someone said that the “The work of the mystical body on earth depends on the zeal of its members. Our contribution to the holiness of the whole Church will depend on the extent to which we allow the Holy Spirit to take over our lives.” May we always remain open to the working of God’s grace in our lives.