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We become part of the Church through faith and baptism, through welcoming the love of God revealed by Jesus and by accepting his teaching, by doing this we become part of God’s people and receive a share in Jesus’ priestly, prophetic and kingly ministry...
Date: 01 Mar 2020
Often when people think of Church they think of a building or a particular religious group like the Anglican Church or the Mormon Church or Baptist Church. This isn’t what we Catholics mean.
The whole purpose of creation is that humanity might share in Divine life. This sharing happens through the sacraments by the will of God the Father when the Holy Spirit brings about our union with Jesus Christ who has redeemed us. The Church is the community of those living and dead who through Baptism and the Sacraments are part of this union.
This community is foreshadowed in the Old Testament by the chosen people, the people of Israel.
During his life on earth Jesus gathered those who welcomed his preaching of the Gospel into an organised community lead by Peter and the Apostles, giving himself in sacrifice on the cross to restore the relationship between God and Man Jesus gives birth to the Church and at Pentecost, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Church is united with Christ in his holiness, his mission to proclaim God’s love and to give himself in sacrifice for the sake of love.
This community of believers, the Church, united to Christ, is visible, often painfully visible, we see it in history, we see the failures and sins of her members as well as their glories and holiness, but it is also a spiritual reality. It is a community willed by God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit from the very beginning, its heart is the unity willed by God and brought about by the Holy Spirit of each member with Jesus the Saviour. The Church is both human and Divine. Made up of sinful human beings but united to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.
We become part of the Church through faith and baptism, through welcoming the love of God revealed by Jesus and by accepting his teaching, by doing this we become part of God’s people and receive a share in Jesus’ priestly, prophetic and kingly ministry. Each member of the Church is called like Jesus our Lord to offer everything to the Father, witness to the truth and serve the poor. We become one body, the body of Christ, he is the head of the body and each member of the Church is called to place their gifts at the service of all.
Some images may help. A simple one is the Church as a sheepfold, with Christ the gate. Another the Church as a ship carrying us over a stormy sea. Another is the Church as the Temple of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is like the soul of the Body of Christ giving life, strength and grace. A final one is a marriage. The Church is the bride of Christ, his utter, self sacrificing love for her, his joy and delight in her gives the Bride the motive and the ability to respond with love and together Bride and Groom become one in service of others.
This Church exists both on earth and in heaven where the apostles and saints are gathered, it exists in communities like us gathered together, and on earth it is most fully present when the Holy Eucharist is celebrated (something we will return to).
We call the Church in the Nicene Creed: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. We will look at these adjectives next week.