Summary: The Council Fathers made much use of Paul's theology of the Church in writing the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, and it points us outward to a starving world.

Monday of 29th Week in Course 2012

Vatican II Documents

The occurrence of the Letter to the Ephesians in our Lectionary right at the beginning of the year of faith, in which have begun to study Lumen Gentium, is quite providential. Here in chapter 2 of the letter, St. Paul makes a subtle change of person in his sentences. He says “God made you alive when you were dead, having followed the prince” of this world. Then he moves to “we once lived in the passions of the flesh, following the desires of body and mind.” He is talking about the scattered humanity, enslaved to sin and alienated from God, from each other, from even their own persons. It’s his way of retelling the story of the Tower of Babel, and the disunion of the human race.

But through the grace of Christ we have been made alive. And not as individuals only, but in union with Christ Jesus, sitting with him in what he calls “heavenly places.” That’s here, as we celebrate Eucharist, the foretaste of the heavenly banquet we are destined to share after our own death and resurrection. It is noteworthy that Paul then writes the words “you” and “we” amid phrases of hope and spiritual wealth. He is writing about the Church.

Lumen Gentium cites the Letter to the Ephesians over thirty times. This letter contains much of Paul’s theology of the Church, and the Council leans on Paul more than any other Scriptural source. From Paul we receive the rich doctrine of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. The Council Fathers, commenting in part on this passage we just read, wrote:

The Head of this Body is Christ. He is the image of the invisible God and in Him all things came into being. He is before all creatures and in Him all things hold together. He is the head of the Body which is the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the first place.(60) By the greatness of His power He rules the things in heaven and the things on earth, and with His all-surpassing perfection and way of acting He fills the whole body with the riches of His glory.

All the members ought to be molded in the likeness of Him, until Christ be formed in them.(62) For this reason we, who have been made to conform with Him, who have died with Him and risen with Him, are taken up into the mysteries of His life, until we will reign together with Him.(63) On earth, still as pilgrims in a strange land, tracing in trial and in oppression the paths He trod, we are made one with His sufferings like the body is one with the Head, suffering with Him, that with Him we may be glorified.(64)

From Him "the whole body, supplied and built up by joints and ligaments, attains a growth that is of God".(65) He continually distributes in His body, that is, in the Church, gifts of ministries in which, by His own power, we serve each other unto salvation so that, carrying out the truth in love, we might through all things grow unto Him who is our Head.(66)

In order that we might be unceasingly renewed in Him,(67) He has shared with us His Spirit who, existing as one and the same being in the Head and in the members, gives life to, unifies and moves through the whole body. This He does in such a way that His work could be compared by the holy Fathers with the function which the principle of life, that is, the soul, fulfills in the human body.(8*)

The Church, then, has the role of leading, guiding, converting and sanctifying all of creation. Man is to use the goods of this earth in union with that purpose. That’s why hoarding wealth and keeping it from serving the end of reuniting the scattered peoples of earth is morally wrong. The miser in the Gospel story today thought only of his own temporal welfare and pleasure. He would rather his grain rot in storage than see it benefit others. Our vision, then, must be outward. The call to the new evangelization means we have a call to put out own wealth in time, talent and treasure in service to God’s starving children–starving for food and shelter, certainly, but even more starving for the Word of God and the sacraments of Christ.

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