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To Love the Lord Is To Love His Church

3/3/2006 - 5:30 AM PST

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By: Deacon Keith A. Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
Catholic Online

“On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" He said, "Who are you, sir?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”” Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 9

“Let us love the Lord our God; let us love His Church…Let us love Him as our Father and her as our mother”[1] St. Augustine

No one can have God as his Father who does not have the Church as his Mother” St. Cyprian[2]

“For where the Church is, there the Spirit of God is also; and where the Spirit of God is, there the Church is, and all grace. And the Spirit is truth” [3] St. Irenaes of Lyons

______________________

“There is no plan B” I said to my evangelical Protestant friend. “The Lord has not changed His mind. His work continues through His Body, His Church, of which we are all members through our Baptism”.

This exchange came at the tail end of a lengthy and inspiring conversation, initiated by him. He is hungering for a deeper experience of worship and genuinely seeking a deeper life “in the Lord.” A long time participant in the pro-life movement, he has been touched by the writings of Pope John Paul II. He is also inspired by the witness of Catholic Christians. He asked me some very serious questions that day about what it means to be a Christian. Among other things, I spoke to my friend of the beautiful theology of communion that is the heart of Catholic ecclesiology. I could see in his eyes the interest that will, in God’s time, lead him even more deeply along the path I have witnessed so many others walk.

This kind of encounter is happening with increasing frequency these days. I have spent much of my own public ministry, through the pro-life cause and my work in authentic ecumenism, in friendship and fellowship with evangelical Protestant Christians. There is a growing respect for - and interest in- the Catholic Church among many of our friends. For some, they have lived in an almost “Church-less” experience of Christianity; one that has so emphasized a “personal relationship” with Jesus (a vitally important truth) that they have not experienced the “horizontal bar” of the Cross, the belonging to His Body and the very real implications of living in ecclesial communion.

However, they are not alone. How many Catholic Christians truly understand the implications of their own Baptism? How many have experienced the grace of identification with the Church as a “mother”, or the interior dimension of living in the Church as a “communion” of persons, flowing from the Communion of the Trinity? Is this all supposed to only be the experience of the “mystics”, the talk of the Saints and Fathers, or, is it supposed to be the truly common experience of every Christian? I believe it is supposed to be the common experience of all who bear the name Christian.

In Catholic theology and practice, we teach -and we are called to practice - the truth that the early fathers, Saints and Councils throughout the ages have affirmed; to belong to Jesus is to belong to His Body. Our membership in the Church is a very real participation in the very life of God; what the Apostle Peter referred to as a “participation in the Divine nature”. (2 Peter 1:4) This kind of real, tangible experience of life in the Church is meant to be the lived experience of every Baptized Christian. For that to happen, we need, above all else, to pray. Prayer is the path to a fuller and fuller encounter with God. In that relationship we change. We enter into new life here and now; a life that is a sign of the fullness of life that is to come.

To love the Lord is to love His Church.

Catholic ecclesiology speaks clearly and simply of our Christian friends in other Christian communities, those who have been validly baptized in accordance with a Trinitarian formula, as already being in “imperfect communion” with the Church.[4] This is why Catholics do not “re-baptize” a Christian from another community who comes into the fullness that is Catholic Christian faith and life. We speak of them as coming into “full communion”, because they are already, in a very real sense, joined to the one Church which is the mother of all Christians.

It seems that everywhere I travel these days, people are talking about “the Church”. Sadly, the headlines are still filled with the continued uncovering of the reach of the terrible sin of the sexual abuse crisis which Pope John Paul II rightly referred to as a part of the “mystery of iniquity.” There is a purification of the Church underway and we are in the beginning of a needed Clergy Reform within her. ...

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