What is the Church?

If you had to define “the Church” in a single sentence what would you say? Probably your response would be one of the following: It is an institution, a structure, a gathering, a community, a people? It is all of that but so much more.

For us as Catholics we believe that the Church is more than a human organization, or simply a coming together of like-minded people, a community of purely worldly provenance and purpose. Rather the church is the sacrament of Jesus and shares in the very being, life and energy of Christ. According to St. Paul, the church is the body of Jesus, an organ-ism composed of interdependent cells, molecules, and organs. Christ is the head of a mystical body made of everyone across time and space who has ever been grafted onto him through baptism.
Jesus himself used the metaphor to explain this relationship when he said, “I am the vine and you are the branch-es” (Jn 15:5); “remain in me” (Jn. 15:4); “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (Jn. 6:53)

The term behind church is the Greek word, ekklesia, which is derived from ekkalein, “to call out from”. From this definition then we should ask ourselves three questions: Who does the calling? What is one being called from? And what is one being called to?

From our Catholic perspective it is of course God who does the calling. We are being called out of the world to be the apostles of Christ on earth while remaining and working in the world. Through our Baptism we are called to be a transforming leaven in the world. We are called to carry holiness we learned in the church out into our areas of specialization in our world.

We are called to use those gifts and talents we have been given in the church and in the world.
We see the way variety of gifts we have been given and nurtured in many ways in the community around us. But not only are we called to use these amazing gifts in our world to help one another we are also called to use our gifts with-in the Catholic community so that all may grow in their faith and relationship with God. To enhance the celebrations which we attend to receive the nourishment we need – both through the Word of God and through the Eucharist-By using our gifts here as well.

We are called by Jesus Christ to grow in our faith and our relationship with him, to serve our faith community and the community at large. We are called by Christ to build the kingdom of God here on earth, by living out our baptismal commitments of relying on Christ to lead us through those he has put as our leaders, to serve in ways he directs, to become the forgiving, worshiping community that we are called to be in this world we have been called out of.

Mary Anne Penner


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