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The Mystical Body of Christ and the Church

In 11 The Constant Church on 2015/03/20 at 12:00 AM

Aida Tamayo’s notes on Fr. Barron’s series

The Mystical body of Christ and the Church. What do you think is the primary reason for the Church existence? Is it to feed the poor? Is it to provide social programs? To educate the masses? To tend to the sick? NO, none of those is the primary function of the Church. Don’t get me wrong, the Church is the oldest functioning institution in the history of the Western World and has been a major source of social services from the beginning providing education and medical care; inspiration for Western art, culture and philosophy; and influential player in politics and religion and we in the Church are called to service. But that is not the primary reason for its existence. The Primary Reason of the Church is to make us saints so we can spend eternity with God. Through the Church, God gathers the people to Himself. Everything else flows from it but is not its reason for existing.

The Church is not a human institution, but a sacrament of Jesus, so it shares in the very being, life and energy of Christ. This may shock many Mass goers. Our celebration of Mass is not just what we perceive with our senses. Each Mass joins the liturgy which the angels and the saints continually celebrate in heaven. In His presence, the communion of saints and the angels unceasingly praise and adore God and those destined for heaven will be expressing this love in the heavenly liturgy, a sort of joyful perpetual adoration in His presence. The Mass allows us to join in this adoration because the earthly Mass has the power to plug us into that heavenly liturgy and all of heaven (angels, the Communion of Saints, Mary the Mother of God and of course, the Holy Trinity) is present at our Mass. Think of Jesus words. Remain in me, live in me, eat my body and drink my blood. What did He say to Paul on the road to Damascus… Saul why are you persecuting me? He didn’t say my followers or my Church. He meant His mystical body.

We are joined to Christ across the ages in some mystical way, the Church is meant to gather all of creation around Christ. The Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus, and when we receive Him, we become more integrated into His mystical body, giving us a heightened sense of justice. By filling ourselves with the life of Christ and doing His Will, we will become saints and an active part of the Mystical Body. All the baptized are connected to each other like cells in a body, so if someone is persecuted that affects all of us, it is our problem. It is a tragedy that most people don’t realize this truth.

EKKLESIA – God established the Church in response to men’s sin. The Church mission is to restore us to that friendship with God. Sin results in disillusion and division, totally opposed to God and the ever-loving God response to sin was a gathering of the people. He starts by calling Abraham and the people of Israel and he formed them to be a people distinct, unique, peculiarly His own. He gave them laws, rituals, covenants, liturgies, a form of life meant to be pleasing to God. Not for the glorification of Israel but so that Israel could be the magnet by which the whole world would be gathered eventually unto God. Jesus was the culmination of Israel and the supreme and divine magnet. This gathering of people is what we call the Church. He told Peter, you are the Rock upon which I will build my ekklesia (Greek for church).

The 4 basic Marks: One Holy Catholic Apostolic

In the Catechism paragraph 811, it says that the Church of Christ is professed in the Creed: “…… to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” These four characteristics, inseparably linked with each other, indicate essential features of the Church and her mission. The Church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes His Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is He who calls her to realize each of these qualities.

THE CHURCH IS ONE – because God is one. I believe in one God. By this we are called to reject all other “deities” (political leaders, cultural idols, ideologies, etc.) …there is only one God. The Church is the vehicle by which the one God draws all people to unity with Himself. Jesus, the Word and mind of God is all that is true and beautiful and He draws all things to Himself over time. The Pantheon in Rome provides an example of this process. It is the most beautiful space created by paganism and is now the Catholic Church of Mary of the Martyrs. The Church holds on to its truth but is able to transform and assimilative that which is good, true and beautiful into its own unity, its unchangeable truth. That was Jesus prayer to God the Father, that we may all become one [in Truth] as He and His Father are One.

THE CHURCH IS HOLY – Because God is Holy and the Church is His mystical body. The Church’s primary purpose is to make saints, to make people holy. Everything about it is meant for that end. One hears always about the inquisition, persecution of Galileo, the crusades, corruption, too much money, and recently abuse of children by some priests. Given this why do we call the Church Holy? That the Church is holy doesn’t deny the sinfulness of its members. Sadly, our fallen nature affects us.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: 844 In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them: Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasoning, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair. 845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son’s Church.

The Church itself is holy and a bearer of grace. Its grace in the sacraments comes not from the moral excellence of the ministers, but from God. The grace of God is that which makes the Church holy.

THE CHURCH IS CATHOLIC – Catholic comes from the Greek word kata holos meaning according to the whole: Universal. The Church is universal because it is the means by which God wants to gather the whole world to itself. The Church is the new Israel and a magnet to all the nations. One of the greatest gathering places in the world is St. Peter’s square. It can hold up to 300,000 people. And Bernini’s columns are meant to look like arms reaching out to gather in the whole world. The Word got out to all nations and all nations come here, which is a realization of what was said 2000 years ago.

CHURCH IS APOSTOLIC – because it is rooted on the apostles; The 12 men chosen by Jesus. They stayed with Jesus, were formed and shaped by His Mind, the mind of God. The main altar of the great basilica of St. John Lateran, holds the reliquaries with the head of the great apostles Peter and Paul. The form and structure of the Church itself are depiction of the 12 Apostles. Bishops today can legitimately claim that they are successors of the Apostles. The leadership of the Church today is Apostolic in structure. Hierarchy comes from two Greek words; hieros(priest) and arche (rule or principle). It is not a power play, it is a church grounded in this Apostolic faith. Apostles meant to send and so the Church has that great missionary purpose. The Church is not a democratic polity or a philosophical debating society but a body grounded in revelation. Its integrity rests in its founder and the on-going guidance by the Holy Spirit. This same Spirit protects the Church from error in matters of faith and morals through the infallibility of the Pope, the successor of the Apostle Peter. Infallibly does not mean the Pope interferes with the life of the Church it means that he is the living voice of authority to protect the Truth of God which guides its life. The keys given to Peter as the first Pope are meant to unlock the secret to life, the secret to the great mystery of all things. If the keys were flexible, it would lose its whole reason for being. The keys handed to Peter will take us to the truth of God so we can be gathered in Him.

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