Pastor’s Corner for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, by Fr. Arnold Moyo SJ


The Four Marks of the Church


When we recite the Nicene Creed at Mass (the Nicene Creed is the longer version of the Apostle’s Creed), we assert that we believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. These are regarded as the four marks of the Church.  They are fundamental characteristics of what the Catholic Church is. What do we mean then when we say the Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic? Our reflection this week will focus on this important aspect of our faith and understanding of the Church.

The Church as One

The Church is one because its source and its head is one, God. St Paul expresses this in his letter to the Ephesians when he asserts: “There is one Body, one Spirit, …. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and father of all (Ep 4:1-6). St Paul urges us to preserve the unity of the Spirit: “Take every care to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together”. Jesus himself prayed that we may be one (John 17:21). In his commission to Peter after the resurrection, Jesus asks Peter to feed His sheep (John 21:17). Jesus envisages a Church under one leader (you are Peter, which means rock, and on this rock, I will build my Church [Mt 16:18]). Thus, we profess faith in this one Church.


The Church as Holy

The Church is holy because its founder, Jesus Christ, is holy. Just as the Church is one because its source is one, so is its holiness founded on the holiness of God. The holiness of the Church does not depend on the holiness or behaviour of its members, but that of God. We the members of the Church are sinners who seek this divine holiness (“Be holy as your Father in heaven is holy”, {Mt 5:48}). We seek this holiness through the sanctifying grace of the sacraments of the Church and through the lives we lead under the aegis of the Holy Spirit. However, since the Church is composed of fallible members, it is in constant need of renewal so that it stays true to its calling of proclaiming and building the Kingdom of God on earth.


The Church as Catholic

The church is “catholic” in that in Christ, everything that is necessary for our salvation is entrusted definitively to the Church and no one is excluded from this salvation. In her evangelisation, the Church is open to all since Christ desires that all be saved. Thus, the catholicity of the Church is not just about numbers and geography and its universality, but rather, it is about the Church’s openness to all that seek God’s salvation trough their membership in the Church. The Church is all-embracing.


The Church as Apostolic

The proclamation of the Gospel was first entrusted to the apostles by Christ, who build up the early Church and entrusted its leadership to their successors. These successors are represented today by the Pope and bishops, whose role continues to be that of feeding Christ’s sheep and more. There is thus a direct unbreakable continuity between today’s Pope and bishops. But “apostolicity” is more than just this continuity, but also signified the Church’s rootedness to its original source, while of course adapting to new realities as the original apostles did.


Fr. Arnold Moyo SJ