Now what is Gods house is also a city. For Gods house is the people of God, Gods house is the temple of God. And what does the Apostle say? "Gods temple is holy, which you yourselves are" (1 Cor 3:17). For all the believers are the house of God, not only those who exist now, but also those who existed before us and have fallen asleep, and also those who will exist after us, who have yet to be born, down to the end of the world, gathered into a single reality, countless but counted by the Lord, about whom the Apostle says: "The Lord knows who are his own" (2 Tim 2:19)those grains that now groan among the chaff and will make a single mass when the threshing floor is winnowed at the end (Mt 3:12)the entire number of holy believers, to be changed from being human beings to being equal to Gods angels, they, too, to be joined to the angels who now do not wander but await us when we return from our wanderingall of these together making up the single house and single city of God. This is Jerusalem.This city has guardians. As it has builders who work to build the city, so also it has guardians. To their role belongs what the Apostle says: "I fear that as the serpent seduced Eve by his cleverness, so your minds may be corrupted away from the chastity that is in Christ" (2 Cor 11:3). Paul guarded them; he was a guardian; he watched, as much as he was able, over his people. Bishops do this, too. Bishops are set in a higher place so they can supervise and as it were guard the people. The Greek word episcopos in Latin means supervisor, because he supervises, that is, he looks down from above. Hes also like a vine-dresser: as he has a higher place so he can guard the vine, so a bishop has a higher place. And from that high place we will have to face a dangerous accounting unless we stand here with a heart that places us humbly beneath your feet and unless we pray for you that the one who knows your minds guard them. We can see you entering and leaving, but we have no way of knowing what is in your hearts or what you do in your homes. How, then, can we guard? Only as men, as much as we can, as much as we have been given. And because we guard as human beings and cannot perfectly guard you, do we therefore remain without a guardian? Of course not. For where is he of whom it is said: "Unless the Lord guard the city, he labors in vain who guards it." We work at guarding, but our effort is in vain unless he who sees your thoughts guards you. He guards you when you are awake, and he guards you when you sleep. (He slept once on the cross; but he sleeps no more.) Be Israel: because the one who guards Israel neither sleeps nor will sleep (Ps 120:4). So then, brothers and sisters, if we wish to be guarded beneath the shadow of Gods wings, let us be Israel. We guard you by the office we have received, but we wish to be guarded along with you. We are like shepherds for you, but we are sheep along with you beneath that Shepherd. We are like teachers for you from this place, but we are your fellow students beneath that single Teacher. [Augustine, Enar. in Ps 126, 4; PL 37:1669]
Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.