September 2, 2011

Seeking the Face of the Lord

The mission of the Church is to seek the face of the Lord

(Listen to the archbishop read this column)

(Editor’s note: While Archbishop Buechlein continues to recover from a stroke, we offer some reprints of his various columns for your enrichment. The following column is from the July 14, 2006, issue of The Criterion.)

Our roots as the particular Church known as the Archdiocese of Indianapolis run deep. We are not simply a social organization with the name Catholic.

In order to have a sense of the rootedness of our local Church, we go back to where it all began, namely in God the Creator.

In creating the world, it was God’s plan to dignify our human family with a divine destiny.

Even though in the beginning our human family said no to God’s marvelous plan, he did not abandon us. Instead, he offered to save us by promising Christ the Redeemer. For centuries, God had been preparing a chosen people for this most complete revelation of his love, his own Son.

The people of Israel were the first to accept God’s invitation. In them and through their special leaders whom God had raised up, they came to see the special friendship between them and God signified by the covenant at Mount Sinai. They would be a special people, a holy nation, a sign among all the people of the world of the presence of the one true God.

In the events of their history, God would begin to reveal his loving plan of salvation. The people of Israel are our ancestors in the faith.

Obviously, we claim the central role of Jesus Christ in God’s creative plan and, therefore, in our mission as a local Church. In the fullness of time, God sent his only son. Fully human and fully divine, Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15).

Born of a woman, like us in all things but sin, Christ came on mission for his Father. Christ is the fullness of the revelation of God; God fully dwelling among us.

Yet Christ is also fully human. Therefore in his person, the long desired unity between God and our human family—foreshadowed in the covenant with Israel and proclaimed by the prophets—was finally achieved. Christ is everything God ever hoped to say to us; and Christ is also everything God hoped we would say in return.

“That all things may be made new”—that was Christ’s mission—a transformation of all our human family in the spirit of God.

This is our divine destiny, and this is the meaning of the kingdom of God. Christ established this kingdom by his complete obedience to the Father’s will.

The foundation of Christ’s obedience is love—love of the Father and love for all creation in the unity of the Holy Spirit. The hoped for kingdom consists in this—that eventually all of us may be united to the Father, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Each human person ever to be born would now be united in one solemn bond of love, sealed by the blood of Christ.

Christ’s earthly mission, then, was to establish the kingdom of God: “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace” (Roman Missal: Preface of Christ the King).

It is God’s goal that someday the fullness of this kingdom would see the unity of all human persons in one magnificent bond of love. This is that “kingdom” where “every tear shall be wiped away” (Eucharistic Prayer III). And we pray, “Thy kingdom come.”

But what about now? Since Christ ascended into heaven and until he comes again in glory, what happens? What happens until the fullness of that promised kingdom comes?

The mission of the Church is to seek the face of the Lord. When I became a bishop, I chose the motto “Seek the Face of the Lord” from Psalm 27 because I thought it expressed our common mission as the local Church. We seek the face of the Lord in worship and in service to all his people. I thought the motto could be timely.

Christ inaugurated the kingdom of God, but its full realization will take place only over time. Therefore, Christ called together disciples who would continue his saving mission through the ages until he comes again in glory. From them, he chose 12 Apostles to share his mission in a unique way, and to lead the “new people of God” in their life and work for the saving unity of the human family.

This “new people of God” is the Church. Gathered and led by the college of bishops as successors to the college of Apostles, under the leadership of the bishop of Rome and successor to Peter, the Church is more than just a collection of individual disciples.

Rather, by the power of the Holy Spirit, this “people” is an organic whole. From the earliest days, the Church has been called the body of Christ. †

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