The People of God
Peace be to you:
- After having reviewed the life of our blessed Lord and also His Revelation of Himself as the Son of God, and also His bond to the Father and to the Holy Spirit, we now come to the subject of the Church.
What do you think of when you first Hear the word “church?” An institution? An organization? A kind of an administrative body? Well you are to be very much excused if you think of it that way because it is partly our own fault. It is the way we have too often presented the Church.
People of God and as the Mystical Body of Christ:
- Now, we will talk about the church in other words, namely in terms of the people of God, and as the Mystical Body of Christ. As we look at history as revealed in the bible, not as the inspired word of God as yet, but as an historical record, we find that it is God that is always in search of man. It is not man in search of God.
Man does seek God but not with the same intensity with which God seeks man.
Just think of how much the thought of man and the love of man is in the Mind and Heart of God.
What is the first reflex thought that we find in Sacred Scripture of God?
- Not the first description of Him creating the world but the first thought that He has about Himself and within Himself.
We would almost guess that – well His first thought would be about His Life , His Truth and His Love. And yet that is not the first thought in Scripture. Open Genesis and you will find it. God’s first Thought about Himself is, “Let Us make man.” (Genesis 1:26)
Think of it, as if God could not exist without man. God does not need man to complete Himself, to fulfill a need, but He needs man as a kind of a gift, that is to say, He must have someone to whom He can show His Love.
- Therefore, the first monologue that we touch in Sacred Scripture is the monologue of God thinking about man.
And what are the first dialogues in Scripture?
- The first question in scripture is God saying to man, “Adam, where art thou?” “Man, why are you hiding?” “Why do you run from me?” (Ref Genesis 3:9)
And the next dialogue is about the neighbor, God says to Cain “Where is thy brother Abel?”( Genesis 4:9)
God is immersed in the thought of man. And here we find the first two laws, really of God, Love of God and Love of neighbor and the two questions “Man, where art thou?”
And, “Where is thy brother?”
Now this was at the beginning of humanity and we find therefore that humanity received a call from God to intimate communion with Himself. God will not let man go.
How does He deal with humanity when humanity begins to multiply?
- In this way: Out of all of the peoples of the world He chooses one people who are to be what He calls “His people”. And this group, this corporation, this special people are to be the means of bringing salvation to everyone else in the world.
Now who were His people?
- His people were the people of Israel, and He called them first through Abraham,
then He governed them through Moses, He ruled them through the Judges and the Kings, He threatened, He pleaded, He coaxed, He warned, He loved through the prophets and over and over in the Old Testament we find that God who loves humanity deals with them through this particular group and in His own words, God says, in the Book of Exodus, “You shall be my peculiar possession above all people.” “For all the earth is mine and you shall be to me a Priestly kingdom, a Holy nation.” (ref Exodus 19:5)
And again God speaks and says, “You shall be my people and I shall be your God.”
And through the centuries these facts stand out.
God has a special name for His people, He calls them in Hebrew “Kahal” We will often use that word, it means God’s elect, His chosen ones, Israel.
The word is used about 200 times in the Old Testament.
Later on when the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek that word, Kahal, was translated by Ecclesia.
Ecclesia in Greek means “Church.” You get the word Ecclesiastical from it. And so whenever you Hear the word “Kahal”, the people of God, you may think of it in Greek as Ecclesia or in English as Church. That is the first point.
Secondly, God always dealt with his people through one man whom He appointed as Head and as representative, Abraham at one time, Isaac another, Jacob, Moses, Kings and Prophets.
And thirdly, because Israel was His people, He made a treaty with them, a pact, a covenant, an agreement. This involved mutual obligations. The Hebrew word for covenant is האמנה (approximate pronunciation is be-rit). You have often heard that word. It appears 275 times in the Scripture. And האמנה means that they owed something to God and God in his turn would bless them and as He said, “Above all the nations of the earth they would be blessed.”
Israel was therefore to be His witness that God had placed them in the world, that the plan that He had for the salvation of all mankind would be effected through them and
finally — you Heard this when we spoke about all of the prophesies concerning our blessed Lord — and finally that the fulfillment would come the day that Christ Himself would appear.
This would be the perfection of all of the prophets. This is why the people of God were chosen to be the vehicle, to be The Seed out of which redemption would come to the world.
And finally one day, when the fullness of time came, Christ did appear. And when He appeared there was fulfilled the prophesy of Isias or rather Ezekiel it was who said,“I Myself will seek My sheep and I will visit them.”
So now God appears in the form of Human Nature. He takes upon Himself the form of a man. And one day a beautiful woman, a Virgin, brought a child to an old man who was in the temple of Jerusalem, the old man’s name was Simeon. He had often said a prayer, a prayer that many Jews were saying in those days because they knew that the time was near for the coming of the Messias.
We already mentioned that Herod who was not a Jew but an Edomite was not surprised when the wise men came. He said He would bring gifts but the gift that He promised to bring was the sword.
- Now there are some flowers that open only in the evening and Simeon, the old man was one of those flowers. And imagine the ecstasy of this old man when He embraced this child and his first words were “Now I am ready to die.” “This is the end, this is all I have lived for.”
And he speaks to the Mother and he says, now notice how he speaks of Israel and the Gentiles. Remember that we said that the people of God were to be a Light to all the nations of the world. Now Simeon looks backwards and forwards.
He looks backwards to the people of God of which He was a priest, and He says, “This is the glory of thy people Israel, this babe.” And He looks forward: “This is the Light which shall give revelation to the Gentiles.”
In other words He saw in this babe the maker of a new covenant, the founder of a new Kahal, He also saw in Him a sign to be contradicted by the very people to whom He came to bring Salvation.
So that this Christ who was born was not as you see just someone who came by surprise, He is related to all of the people of God through the centuries and if you pick up the Gospels and read the two genealogies of our blessed Lord, you will find that,
in one instance, the genealogy of our blessed Lord goes back to Abraham and
another genealogy goes back to Adam.
What does this mean?
- It means that this new Head of the Kahal, this expected of the nations, this God made man, this Christ is related to the people of God were to be the instrument of the salvation of the world.
- When then in Sacred Scripture you come to a hearing about our blessed Lord founding a church or a Kahal or a people of God you must not think this is an innovation. Everything that our Lord is saying is related to this people of God in the Old Testament and see how He sustains that relationship.
First of all He chooses 12 Apostles. It is very likely that they were even related to the 12 tribes in some way and out of those 12 tribes, or rather those 12 apostles representative of 12 tribes, He chose one as His Representative. We will find out his name later.
- Looking back on the Old Law He also said, “I came not to destroy it but to fulfill it.” (Matthew 5:17)
So He gathers these new people around Himself in order to renovate and revivify Israel, to make a new Israel and if the old Israel would reject Him He would not eventually reject Israel.
A prophet will say in the Old Testament, and Paul in the New Testament, says that we of the new Kahal, we the new people of God are only a branch that is grafted onto the tree, we are not the root, Israel is the root. St. Paul foretells a day when the root will be Glorified, in other words it will surpass the Gentiles in glory when Israel returns.
When our Lord does come to use the word Kahal He calls it “My Kahal.” I will found My Church, My People and the bond that Christ establishes with this new Kahal is not a bond of law, it’s a Bond of Love and the very best moment for establishing this bond was of course a Banquet.
Where his 12 sat about Him in love and just as Moses often sprinkled blood upon the people as a sign of covenant so He said He would make a New Covenant, a new pact, a New Testament and there would not be the sprinkling of the blood of goats and bullocks and sheep, He gave His own Blood instead.
- This is the Blood of the New Covenant, a New Testament, a New Pact. This is the Bond that will unite all of My People together.
Now do you see that the Church is not an institution?
Maybe you have often said, “I do not want an institution standing between God and me.” Well that’s right, after all you have a right to communication with God.
But the Church is not that kind of an institution standing between you and God, Israel was not between the world and God.
Think of the Church in somewhat the fashion of a body.
- Do you ever say for example as you listen to me, “I do not want your lips and your eyes and your hands and so forth standing between me and you, after all how can I communicate anything to you?” Except by something visible and tangible and carnal, anything visible that you see about me or will ever see about me is nothing but a sign of an invisible Soul, the carnal is the token of the Spiritual.
- So when our blessed Lord came to this earth and took upon Himself a human body you would not say, “I do not want this body of Christ standing between me and my love of Christ.” Why that is the only way of the Incarnation, namely to communicate the Divine through the human.
- This human nature of our blessed Lord, this body of His, was the instrument of his Divinity. When therefore our Blessed Lord came as Priest and as Prophet and as King everything He did was done through the power and the means of this human nature.
- If you Heard our blessed Lord speak on the shores of Galilee you would not say, “Oh it is only a human tongue that is speaking.” When He said to you “I am the Truth.” Do you say, “How do I know God is speaking to me?”
That’s why He became man. If He said to you, “I forgive your sins.” Would you say, “All I see is a lifted hand and the movements of lips.”
- No, His Body was the means by which He made Himself applicable to us and therefore the best way to understand that the Church is not just an institution is to understand it somewhat in the fashion of the Body of Christ and that’s the way that Paul understood the Church. And that’s the way we have it in Sacred Scripture.
Our blessed Lord all through the Gospels is saying that He is going to establish a New Body, a New Kahal, a New People of God.
- After all when people are united for a given purpose they are a body. Now our Lord did not use the word “body” precisely because his own physical body was before everyone, He used the word “kingdom” because that was a word that the Jews could understand but when St. Paul was talking to the pagans, He had to use the word that was more understandable by them namely The Body.
But our Lord communicated exactly the same idea. He said that the new people that He would communicate and unite with Himself would be related to Him as branches and vines. He said, “You are the branches, I am the vine…” (John 15:5)
And the Truth that He had He said He would give to them. “My Truth I give to you.
- And also He communicated the power to forgive sins. So our blessed Lord said that He would develop and form a new body which would be very small at first like a mustard seed and then grow and spread throughout the entire world.
But what was the nucleus of this body?
- Well we have already hinted to that. The nucleus, the raw material of this new body was the apostles.
- Now just as my own human body for example is made up of millions and millions of cells and yet it is one because vivified by one soul, governed by an invisible mind, presided over by a visible Head.
- So all who later on will be incorporated into this new Body of Christ will be one because vivified by One’s Soul, the Holy Spirit, governed by an invisible mind, Christ in Heaven, and presided over by a visible Head, namely the one whom Christ chose at the beginning, to bear the keys of his Kingdom.
Therefore, this body of Christ was to the be prolongation of His Incarnation.
- Our Lord was to grow and expand very much like a cell. We sometimes think that a church is formed by all of us coming together and saying oh let’s get together and form a church just like we form a tennis club. That’s not the way the Body of Christ was formed. People of God were not formed that particular way.
- God’s power was in the midst of His people. Even your human body when it began to be was not formed that particular way. It was formed from cells of life and those cells expanded outward.
So, this Body of Christ doesn’t grow like a house grows by the addition of brick to brick and door to door and wall to wall. It grows like a cell. First there is this Divine Life that came to this earth namely God in man. It starts with the humanity of Christ, this Body of His. Now He says He is going to form this New Body. It will not be a moral body or a political body so He has to give it a new name and the name that has been given to it throughout the centuries is Mystical to indicate that the unity that binds it together does not come from men, it comes from His Spirit, from Himself.
It was why there had to be a Pentecost, to put a Soul into this Body and we will see a little later on, how these 12 Apostles that our Lord gathered to Himself were very much like the chemicals in the laboratory.
They were very individualistic, they were very much like, as I say, the hydrogen and phosphates and sulfur in a laboratory. In fact we have in a laboratory 100% of all the chemicals that enter into the constitution of a baby, why can we not make a baby? Because we lack that vivifying, unifying power which is the Soul.
So the Apostles, disparate, disconnected, disjointed, they could not form this Body of Christ they could be formed only by Christ sending His Spirit into them.
And as through the physical body of our Lord it was God who taught them, it was God who governed, it was God who sanctified them.
So through this new Body Christ, His Church, His New Kahal, his New People of God, the New Israel, He will teach, He will govern, He will sanctify.
This is the Church : Paul
- This is the Church. See it’s a long way from an institution. Sometime pick up the Acts of the Apostles and read the story of the conversion of St. Paul. (Ref Acts 9:1-15)
- Paul was a member of the old Kahal, old Israel, and He therefore would not accept the revelation of the new Kahal and He started to persecute the Church.
The time is well within 10 years after the Ascension of our blessed Lord into Heaven. That is very important to remember. Now the Church is beginning to spread through the entire Roman empire, and Paul decides to go into Syria and to persecute the Church there in Damascus. By this time the early members of the Church were very much disturbed by this learned Saul, for that was his Jewish name. I’m sure that many of members of the Church in those days must have prayed to the good Lord that He would send a good coronary thrombosis to Paul. And He must have said, “Dear Lord send us someone to answer Saul.” He Heard their prayers. He sent someone to answer Saul. He sent Paul, that was his Roman name.
So on his way to Damascus a light shines round about him, and he is thrown from his beast, and he hears a voice saying, “Saul” “Saul” “Why persecute thou Me?”
“Me.” “Me.” Why does our Lord say that?
- He is Heaven, how can anybody persecute Him? No wonder St. Paul asks, “Who art thou?” and our Lord answers, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutes.”
- Saul must have thought within Himself, “After all I am only persecuting the members of the Church in Damascus how can I be persecuting you?” How? If someone steps on your foot do not your lips complain? Someone strikes your body, does not your head protest?
Christ the Son of the Living God is the Head of the Mystical Body, the Church and therefore when anyone struck that Body they struck Him. And that is why our Lord protests.
What then is the Church?
It is the People of God, His Kahal, His Ecclesia, His Body prolonged through the centuries in us, His poor members. The Church is the Mystery of God in the world for the Salvation of the world.
God Love You
- In today’s lesson on The Church – what stood out the most to you?
- Why do you think Bishop Sheen gave the title “The People Of God” to this lesson?
- How would you explain to someone seeking a deeper understanding of – The Church – its role in our Salvation?
- Now that you have learned more about The Church and its role in your Salvation – what changes do you think this will have in your daily life?
MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST .
771. “‘The one mediator, CHRIST, established and ever sustains Here on earth his holy Church, the community OF faith, hope, and charity, as a visible organization through which He communicates truth and grace to all men.'[LG 8 # 1.] The Church is at the same time:
– a ‘society structured with hierarchical organs and the MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST;
– the visible society and the spiritual community;
– the earthly Church and the Church endowed with Heavenly riches.'[LG 8.]
These dimensions together constitute ‘one complex reality which comes together from a human and a divine element’:[LG 8.] The Church is essentially both human and divine, visible but endowed with invisible realities, zealous in action and dedicated to contemplation, present in the world, but as a pilgrim, so constituted that in Her the human is directed toward and subordinated to the divine, the visible to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, the object OF our quest.[SC 2, Cf. Heb 13:14 .]
O humility! O sublimity! Both tabernacle OF cedar and sanctuary OF God; earthly dwelling and celestial palace; house OF clay and royal hall; BODY OF death and temple OF light; and at last both object OF scorn to the proud and bride OF CHRIST! She is black but beautiful, O daughters OF Jerusalem, for even if the labor and pain OF Her long exile may have discolored Her, yet Heaven’s beauty has adorned Her.[St. Bernard OF Clairvaux, In Cant. Sermo 27:14 PL 183:920D.]”
To view the context, please visit http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/church1.html#MYSTERY
779. “The Church is both visible and spiritual, a hierarchical society and the MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST. She is one, yet formed OF two components, human and divine. That is Her mystery, which only faith can accept. “
To view the context, please visit http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/church1.html#MYSTERY
791. “The BODY‘s unity does not do away with the diversity OF its members: ‘In the building up OF CHRIST‘s BODY there is engaged a diversity OF members and functions. There is only one Spirit who, according to his own richness and the needs OF the ministries, gives his different gifts for the welfare OF the Church.’[LG 7 # 3.] The unity OF the MYSTICAL BODY produces and stimulates charity among the faithful: ‘From this it follows that if one member suffers anything, all the members suffer with Him, and if one member is honored, all the members together rejoice.’[LG 7 # 3; cf. 1 Cor 12:26 .] Finally, the unity OF the MYSTICAL BODY triumphs over all human divisions: ‘For as many OF you as were baptized into CHRIST have put on CHRIST. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in CHRIST‘[Gal 3:27-28 .]“
To view the context, please visit http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/church2.html#CHRIST
863. “The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors OF Peter and the other apostles, in communion OF faith and life with Her origin: and in that she is ‘sent out’ into the whole world. All members OF the Church share in this mission, though in various ways. ‘The Christian vocation is, OF its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well.’ Indeed, we call an apostolate ‘every activity OF the MYSTICAL BODY‘ that aims ‘to spread the Kingdom OF CHRIST over all the earth.’[AA 2.]“
To view the context, please visit http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/church3.html#APOSTOLIC
958. “Communion with the dead. ‘In full consciousness OF this communion OF the whole MYSTICAL BODY OF Jesus CHRIST, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days OF the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory OF the dead; and ‘because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins’ she offers Her suffrages for them.’[LG 50; cf. 2 Macc 12:45 .] Our prayer for them is capable not only OF Helping them, but also OF making their intercession for us effective.”
To view the context, please visit http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/church5.html#COMMUNION
1070. “In the New Testament the word ‘liturgy’ refers not only to the celebration OF divine worship but also to the proclamation OF the Gospel and to active charity.[Cf. Lk 1:23 ; Acts 13:2 ; Rom 15:16, 27 ; 2 Cor 9:12 ; Phil 2:14-17, 25, 30 .] In all OF these situations it is a question OF the service OF God and neighbor.
In a liturgical celebration the Church is servant in the image OF Her Lord, the one ‘leitourgos’;[Cf. Heb 8:2, 6 .] she shares in CHRIST‘s priesthood (worship), which is both prophetic (proclamation) and kingly (service OF charity):
The liturgy then is rightly seen as an exercise OF the priestly office OF Jesus CHRIST.
It involves the presentation OF man’s sanctification under the guise OF signs perceptible by the senses and its accomplishment in ways appropriate to each OF these signs.
In it full public worship is performed by the MYSTICAL BODY OF Jesus CHRIST, that is, by the Head and his members.
From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action OF CHRIST the priest and OF his BODY which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others.
No other action OF the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.[SC 7 # 2-3.]“
To view the context, please visit http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/omit.html#HOPE
1396. “The unity OF the MYSTICAL BODY: the Eucharist makes the Church. Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to CHRIST. Through it CHRIST unites them to all the faithful in one BODY – the Church. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been called to form but one BODY.[Cf. 1 Cor 12:13 .] The Eucharist fulfills this call: ‘The cup OF blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood OF CHRIST? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the BODY OF CHRIST? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one BODY, for we all partake OF the one bread:’[1 Cor 10:16-17 .]
If you are the BODY and members OF CHRIST, then it is your sacrament that is placed on the table OF the Lord; it is your sacrament that you receive. To that which you are you respond ‘Amen’ (‘yes, it is true!’) and by responding to it you assent to it. For you Hear the words, ‘the BODY OF CHRIST‘ and respond ‘Amen.’ Be then a member OF the BODY OF CHRIST that your Amen may be true.[St. Augustine, Sermo 272: PL 38, 1247.]“
To view the context, please visit http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/euch2.html#BANQUET
1416. “Communion with the BODY and Blood OF CHRIST increases the communicant’s union with the Lord, forgives his venial sins, and preserves Him from grave sins. Since receiving this sacrament strengthens the bonds OF charity between the communicant and CHRIST, it also reinforces the unity OF the Church as the MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST. “
To view the context, please visit http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/euch2.html#GLORY
1474. “The Christian who seeks to purify Himself OF his sin and to become holy with the Help OF God’s grace is not alone. ‘The life OF each OF God’s children is joined in CHRIST and through CHRIST in a wonderful way to the life OF all the other Christian brethren in the supernatural unity OF the MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST, as in a single MYSTICAL‘[Indulgentiarum doctrina, 5.]“
To view the context, please visit http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/healing.html#INDULGENCES
1477. “‘This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works OF the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works OF all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps OF CHRIST the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission the Father entrusted to them. In this way they attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity OF the MYSTICAL BODY.’[Indulgentiarum doctrina, 5.]“
To view the context, please visit http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/healing.html#INDULGENCES
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
Paragraph 3. The Church Is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic
811 “This is the sole Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess 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.
812 Only faith can recognize that the Church possesses these properties from her divine source. But their historical manifestations are signs that also speak clearly to human reason. As the First Vatican Council noted, the “Church herself, with her marvellous propagation, eminent holiness, and inexhaustible fruitfulness in everything good, her catholic unity and invincible stability, is a great and perpetual motive of credibility and an irrefutable witness of her divine mission.”
- THE CHURCH IS ONE
“The sacred mystery of the Church’s unity” (UR 2)
813 The Church is one because of her source: “the highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.” The Church is one because of her founder: for “the Word made flesh, the prince of peace, reconciled all men to God by the cross, . . . restoring the unity of all in one people and one body.” The Church is one because of her “soul”: “It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church’s unity.” Unity is of the essence of the Church:
What an astonishing mystery! There is one Father of the universe, one Logos of the universe, and also one Holy Spirit, everywhere one and the same; there is also one virgin become mother, and I should like to call her “Church.”
II THE CHURCH IS HOLY
823 “The Church . . . is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy. This is because Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is hailed as ‘alone holy,’ loved the Church as his Bride, giving himself up for her so as to sanctify her; he joined her to himself as his body and endowed her with the gift of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.” The Church, then, is “the holy People of God,” and her members are called “saints.”
824 United with Christ, the Church is sanctified by him; through him and with him she becomes sanctifying. “All the activities of the Church are directed, as toward their end, to the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God.” It is in the Church that “the fullness of the means of salvation” has been deposited. It is in her that “by the grace of God we acquire holiness.”
III. THE CHURCH IS CATHOLIC
What does “catholic” mean?
830 The word “catholic” means “universal,” in the sense of “according to the totality” or “in keeping with the whole.” The Church is catholic in a double sense: First, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in her. “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church.” In her subsists the fullness of Christ’s body united with its head; this implies that she receives from him “the fullness of the means of salvation” which he has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession. The Church was, in this fundamental sense, catholic on the day of Pentecost and will always be so until the day of the Parousia.
831 Secondly, the Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race:
All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God’s will may be fulfilled: he made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all his children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one…. The character of universality which adorns the People of God is a gift from the Lord himself whereby the Catholic Church ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks for the return of all humanity and all its goods, under Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit.
“Outside the Church there is no salvation”
846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.
847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.
848 “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”
- THE CHURCH IS APOSTOLIC
857 The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:
– she was and remains built on “the foundation of the Apostles,” the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;
– with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, the “good deposit,” the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;
– she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, “assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor”:
You are the eternal Shepherd who never leaves his flock untended. Through the apostles you watch over us and protect us always. You made them shepherds of the flock to share in the work of your Son….