I’ve never been such a lousy student. I’m skating through an online enrichment course that I’m taking, just doing the bare minimum of reading and participation required. Is this how other people treat school? asks the high school valedictorian. Admittedly, I’ve been distracted. Yes, there’s my book and proposal that needs final revising. (I promise I will finish, God willing!) However, I have also happily stumbled upon a family mystery while studying the Mystery of the Church. More on that in a future post, but I wanted to share one thought: the ecclesiology course subject this week is Church community and that is very much like a family tree.
Through the Church, we share God’s love, sacred things, and each other in a common bond created by God. As we do not create or initiate the Church, we also don’t initiate our family trees, because we don’t get to choose our ancestors, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. With these family members, however, we share common genes and history. The family mystery that I stumbled into is a story, a family story. The story could be thought about as belonging to only one or two members of my family but, in reality, the story belongs to all of us. Because it’s about one member of our family, it’s about all of our family. None of us brought ourselves into this family and none of us can take ourselves out of it. Genes are genes and history is history. This is God’s work through us.
Anyway, as I’ve been doing and will continue to do, this week’s post is my assignment for the ecclesiology class. It was late and therefore rushed, as well as being too long and in need of editing. But here you go:
Assignment 3 Question:
The community of the Church can be described as one of communion. Read the discussion of “communion” found in CCC 946-953. What distinguishes the “communion of saints” that “is the Church” (CCC 946) from other human forms of community? Why is this important?
The community of the Church as “the communion of saints” is a communion of God’s holy people sharing God’s holy things in common. It is different from other forms of human community because it is initiated by God, not human beings. It is given by God as a gift. We do not come together as a community because of similar interests or as a kind of social contract with each other promising to have each other’s backs. Through the Church, we are entering into the communion of God Godself: the life of love shared eternally by the Holy Trinity. This gift of sharing and participation, this gift of communion, is a divine gift offered to all humankind.
What do we have that is not a gift? Life itself is a gift. Our talents and charisms are gifts, and we are only able to love because God first loved us. There is nothing that we can claim as our own or even use that does not come from the gift of God’s Creation. Even the box of food that we donate to the soup kitchen is not ours to give. It belongs to God. St. Luke writes about the apostles and the first disciples of Christ, saying “All who believed were together and had all things in common.” (Acts 2:44.) We act in charity, in love, not because we are kind and generous people, but because God has designed our good as the good of all. It is right and just to give true worship to God, and it is right and just to treat all goods as belonging to the common good.
The “holy things of God,” the sacraments, are also gifts. Through them, we enter into the mystery of God, so that we may have true communion with Him in the eternal life of His love. Through faith, we are able to receive this gift and then freely and actively share the joy and reality of this gift with others. It’s important to remember, however, that faith itself is a gift and we can’t give it to other people. We can witness to the love of God — professing to others our faith in God the Father’s loving plan of creation and redemption, living out our faith in acts of charity as we witness to Christ, and praying with the Holy Spirit for the opening of others’ hearts to the gift of faith — but we cannot give a person faith, just as we cannot give them membership in the Body of Christ. That is the work of God. Again, God’s initiative — His self-giving love — is the important distinction of the Christian life.
The community of the Church is a God-created community of persons who share communally, because that’s who human beings are created to be. Every blessing is given to us in trust, we hold the blessings of our faith as we hold one another in the bond of the Holy Spirit. As the divine persons of the Holy Trinity are inseparable because of love, we are also inseparable in God’s love. When we fail to live our lives reflecting this truth, then we fall miserably short of being the images of God that we are created to be. To sin is to miss the mark; we miss the mark of true communion when we fail to live in the loving bond of charity, receiving the life-giving unity of the sacraments, sharing the gifts of God with one another, united inseparably in Christ.
© 2019 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I am fully alive in love. I write about the profound wonder and terrible beauty of life while living with physical disability and severe dependency. Unafraid to ask life's big questions, I was briefly an atheist and considered other religions before finding, in God's choice to intimately share our humanity, what it truly means to be fully human. A revert to the Catholic Faith, I blog weekly and have written a book called It's Good to Be Here.