Over the past few months, in our ti morceaux we’ve considered the three broad kinds of leadership exercised by bishops in the Church: the ministries of teaching, of sanctifying, and of governing. We’re concluding our look at the second of these, the leadership of sanctifying.
Through celebrating the Church’s sacred moments of prayer, at public worship and in private, and by the personal holiness of life which gives witness to the life of grace that is offered to us all in Christ, bishops and indeed priests – who are their coworkers in Church leadership – fulfill this munus sanctificandi. But in the end, what is this “sanctification” which is the goal here?
Many people might jump to the conclusion that sanctification equals “holiness.” Well, it does, of course, but that alone is not a strong or the best definition. A far better way of explaining the hoped-for end-result of the Church’s ministry of sanctifying is to point out that it aims at union with Christ. The sanctified person in the end is one whose life is so one with Jesus that we think like Him and we act like Him: we share His concerns and ultimately do as He did, spending our life in doing the will of God completely. What is more, when one’s sanctification is properly-developed and lived out, others “can see and love in us what they see and love in Christ,” to use the poetic language of one of the Prefaces of Holy Mass. We virtually become an imago Christi – an image of Christ – for everyone else. To help everyone toward this goal – that’s what Church leadership really, really wants!