Summary: Jesus built a Church, and the Scriptures give us many inspiring images of the Church, especially for evangelization.
Monday of 28th Week in Course 2012
St. Theresa of Jesus
It is especially fitting that our readings today focus on the nature of man’s response to God’s initiative, because that response culminates in the assembly we call the Church. Lumen Gentium is the Church’s contemporary reflection on and teaching about the Church. Jesus condemned the Jewish leaders of His day–a group he continually called “this generation”–because of their refusal to believe in the One sent by the Father. Today He calls on another community fabled for their wickedness–Nineveh–to condemn the lack of faith in Jesus shown by the Pharisees and others.
Paul is even more blunt in the letter to the Galatians, to a community wracked with dissension because some of their members were insisting on all of them taking up the onerous requirements of the whole Jewish Law. In so doing, he gives us an enduring picture of God’s true assembly, the Church. The Jewish community, he insists, is enslaved to a minute observance of human additions to the Divine Law–things like keeping separate kitchens for meat and dairy products, and the number of times one had to wash hands before eating. The Church, beholden only to the Law of Christ, is free. Moreover, this Church, which has her existence simultaneously in heaven and on earth, is our mother. We are children of the free mother, the Church, and so we are at liberty to do good, and have the grace and time to do it.
The Fathers of the Council also reminded us of the many other Biblical images, most of them feminine, applied to the Church:
It is described as the spotless spouse of the spotless Lamb,(43) whom Christ "loved and for whom He delivered Himself up that He might sanctify her",(44) whom He unites to Himself by an unbreakable covenant, and whom He unceasingly "nourishes and cherishes",(45) and whom, once purified, He willed to be cleansed and joined to Himself, subject to Him in love and fidelity,(46) and whom, finally, He filled with heavenly gifts for all eternity, in order that we may know the love of God and of Christ for us, a love which surpasses all knowledge.(47) The Church, while on earth it journeys in a foreign land away from the Lord,(48) is like in exile. It seeks and experiences those things which are above, where Christ is seated at the right-hand of God, where the life of the Church is hidden with Christ in God until it appears in glory with its Spouse.(49)
Most of all, however, the Council Fathers returned to the image of the Church as the Body of Christ, a theme Pius XII took up in the encyclical Mystici Corporis.
By communicating His Spirit, Christ made His brothers, called together from all nations, mystically the components of His own Body.
In that Body the life of Christ is poured into the believers who, through the sacraments, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ who suffered and was glorified.(6*) Through Baptism we are formed in the likeness of Christ: "For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body".(51) In this sacred rite a oneness with Christ's death and resurrection is both symbolized and brought about: "For we were buried with Him by means of Baptism into death"; and if "we have been united with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall be so in the likeness of His resurrection also".(52) Really partaking of the body of the Lord in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with Him and with one another. "Because the bread is one, we though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the one bread".(53) In this way all of us are made members of His Body,(54) "but severally members one of another".(55)