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THURSDAY HOMILY: Living in Jesus Means Living in His Church

By Deacon Keith Fournier
May 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

We are all called to live in the heart of Church for the sake of the world. From there, we are sent on a rescue mission, to bring the whole world back home. When we begin to live this way, we will find the joy of which the Lord speaks in our Gospel.

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic online) - Our gospel today is a short one. It continues the passage we heard proclaimed yesterday from the fifteenth chapter of the St. John which spoke of living or abiding in Jesus:

"Jesus said to his disciples: "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete." (John 15)

Remaining, living, abiding in Jesus, calls us to find our home in His Church. The Church is meant to be the home of the whole human race. 

On the Feast of St George, Pope Francis gave a beautiful homily. The passage from the Acts of the Apostles told of the missionary efforts of the early Christians in proclaiming the Gospel and planting the Church.

The early Christians believed that to belong to Jesus was to belong to His Church. They believed that just as we were all born from our mother's womb - so we are invited by God, in and through Jesus Christ, to be born again into the Church, the new humanity which is being re-created in Him. The Baptismal font was even spoken of as a second womb.

The process of redemption began when we passed through the Sacramental Waters of the font of Holy Baptism. It continues as we cooperate with the Grace given to us in our life within the Church. It will be fully completed when the Lord Returns and we are raised in Resurrected Bodies and live in a new heaven and a new earth!

This understanding of the Church as a participation in Christ and entry into the Trinitarian Communion runs throughout the writings of the early Church Fathers. Here two snippets.

First, from Origen: "Christ has flooded the universe with divine and sanctifying waves. For the thirsty he sends a spring of living water from the wound which the spear opened in His side. From the wound in Christ's side has come forth the Church, and He has made her His bride"

Then, from Bishop Ireneaeus of Lyons, a disciple of Polycarp who was himself a disciple of the Apostle John: "We need to take refuge with the Church, to drink milk at her breast, to be fed with the scriptures of the Lord. For the Church has been planted in the world as a paradise"

Pope Francis, like the early fathers, speaks of the Church as mother: "And so the Church was a Mother, the Mother of more children, of many children. It became more and more of a Mother. A Mother who gives us the faith. A Mother who gives us an identity. But the Christian identity is not an identity card: Christian identity is belonging to the Church, because all of these belonged to the Church, the Mother Church."

"Because - it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church. The great Paul VI said: "Wanting to live with Jesus without the Church, following Jesus outside of the Church, loving Jesus without the Church is an absurd dichotomy."

"And the Mother Church that gives us Jesus gives us our identity that is not only a seal, it is a belonging. Identity means belonging. This belonging to the Church is beautiful." 

Pope Francis is standing on the shoulders of other great teachers in the history of the Catholic Church by reminding us it is not possible to live with Jesus without living in the Church. Here are a few more snippets:

"Let us love the Lord our God; let us love His Church. Let us love Him as our Father and her as our mother" (St. Augustine) "No one can have God as his Father who does not have the Church as his Mother" (St. Cyprian) "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." (St. Irenaeus of Lyons)

Have we experienced this kind of communion with the Church? Do we view her as a mother? Do we understand that we live in the Church and go into the world? Have we come to perceive the Church as Some - One more than some-thing?

Or, is this all supposed to only be the experience of the mystics, the talk of the Saints and Fathers? The answer is clear. It is supposed to be the common experience of every Christian. By the power of the Holy Spirit, it can be. 

Catholic theology teaches what the early fathers, Saints and Councils throughout the ages have all affirmed; to belong to Jesus is to belong to His Body, the Church. Our membership in the Church is a participation in the life of God; what the Apostle Peter referred to as a "participation in the Divine nature". (2 Peter 1:4)

The Church is not some - thing - outside of us, which we try to fix or have our issues with. Through our Baptism the Church becomes our home, our mother, the place in which we now live our lives in Christ. That is not to say we do not sometimes have struggles with our mother. However, she always remains our mother.

To live this understanding of life in the Church requires a continuing and dynamic conversion. We are sons and daughters of the Church. In living our lives in her we carry forward in time the continuing redemptive mission of Jesus Christ who is the Head of His Body. In its treatment of this mystery of the Church, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

"To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is "the world reconciled."

"She is that bark which "in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world." According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves from the flood."(CCC #845)

We are all called to live in the heart of Church for the sake of the world. From there, we are sent on a rescue mission, to bring the whole world back home. When we begin to live this way, we will find the joy of which the Lord speaks in our Gospel.

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