Ask any CEO what happens when an organization forgets its business model or loses sight of its mission statement. Ask any coach what happens to his or her team when they lose their focus, taking their eyes off of the prize for which they compete. Now take this same question beyond the natural realm of industry and sports and apply it instead to the supernatural mission of the Church.
This is exactly what Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland, OR has done in his most recent column at the archdiocesan newspaper the Catholic Sentinel. Readers of my blog know that I have frequently referenced the archbishop in the past. From his pastoral letter on sacred music (while still the bishop of Marquette), to his vocal support for the Traditional Latin Mass (at Sacra Liturgia 2013), Archbishop Sample has repeatedly been one of only a few bishops to vocally defend tradition and orthodoxy. The following excerpts serve as a necessary, and timely, reminder that the mission of the Church is the salvation of souls:
“But what is the greatest love we show for God and neighbor? Is it not to see as many people as possible, including ourselves, come to know the love and mercy of God and be with him one day forever in heaven?
“The Church’s Code of Canon Law contains 1,752 laws covering everything from the structural organization of the Church as the people of God, the teaching of the Faith, the sacramental life of the Church, the administration of the material goods of the Church, and even penal and procedural law. But lest any of us…forget the purpose of all of this body of law, the very last law (or “canon”) states that the “salvation of souls”, which must always be the supreme law of the Church, must be kept before our eyes.
“The salvation of souls. How often do we hear this language in the Church today? Not very often, I am afraid. And yet that is the very mission of the Church!…
“Why am I emphasizing this point, you may ask? Because I sincerely think that we are in danger of losing our focus in fulfilling the mission that Christ has entrusted to all of us in the Church. Our ultimate mission is to bring as many people as possible into the one People of God, to incorporate them into the one Body of Christ, and be built up as the temple of God, animated by the Holy Spirit. The gift of eternal salvation is the greatest gift God has given to us, a gift that was purchased at a great price, the blood of his only begotten Son.
“Jesus began his public ministry by boldly proclaiming, “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” His last words to the Apostles of his Church before his Ascension were, “Go forth and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The message is clear. Repent, believe, go forth and baptize. The essential mission is spiritual, focused on bringing people to life in Christ.
“Throughout the Gospels Jesus speaks of the dangers of losing the gift of salvation, missing the moment of his redemption, and risking eternal punishment by rejecting the offer God has given us in the death and resurrection of his Son. One of Jesus’ most startling statements is: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
“It seems our current environment cultivates the opposite view. Our culture seems to tell us that the way to life is easy and wide, and most people find it, while to find the road to destruction is narrow and hard, and really very few people end up there. I go by our blessed Lord’s words.
“Part of the reason I think that we are in danger of losing the essential and primary message of salvation of souls is based on how I see many people defining what it means to be a good Catholic. Many people have reduced being a good and faithful Catholic to being nice, tolerant and doing good works. They think if we do service projects for the poor and needy, and don’t make any judgments about human behavior and sin, then we are fulfilling the Gospel mandate.
“While it is a good and even essential thing that a disciple of Jesus care for the poor and seek justice for the oppressed in this world, there is so much more to the message of redemption in Jesus Christ. We must follow the Ten Commandments, avoid sin, and repent and seek forgiveness when we fail. Our eternal salvation depends on all these things, as Jesus himself taught. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
“God’s mercy extends to all of us when we have sinned and repented. There is no limit to this mercy. It is infinite. But we must seek it. If we say we are not sinners and are not in need of God’s mercy, we make God a liar…
“True mercy goes beyond justice. But mercy does not oppose justice. Our mission is, only by the grace of God, to seek the salvation of our souls, and to bring as many with us to Heaven as we can, again only as God uses us as his instruments of grace and mercy. The supreme law of the Church is the salvation of souls.”
May we all thank God for this holy bishop! Please keep Archbishop Sample in your prayers as the Devil no doubt hates such clarity from our shepherds. And pray that more of his brother bishops remind their flocks that the supreme law of the Church is the salvation of souls.