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May 5, 2024 - Pastor Message

05/26/2024

THE MEANING OF “CHURCH” (cont.)

“Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5).

“You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred to the Lord. In him, you are also being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Last week we reflected on the meaning of “church” as the building we dedicate to God for prayer and divine worship and the reverence that calls from us when we are in that building. This week, we reflect on the other meaning of “church”, the people gathered to pray and worship there. Here we mean church as the Latin word “ecclesia”, from the Greek word “ekkalein”, meaning a convocation or assembly. This word is used in the Old Testament to mean the chosen People of God, the people of Israel, called by him to gather in his name and to offer him fitting praise and worship, particularly on Mount Sinai, where they received the gift of the Law and where he established them as his people. By adopting this word for themselves, the early Christians recognized that they were the new People of God, called together from all the world.

“In Christian usage, the word ‘church’ designates the liturgical assembly, but also the local community or the whole universal community of believers. These three meanings are inseparable. ‘The Church’ is the People that God gathers in the whole world. She exists in local communities and is made real as a liturgical, above all a Eucharistic, assembly” (CCC 752). The Church is the people, who are called together to form local churches and who gather to pray and offer worship to God, particularly the Eucharistic sacrifice, in church buildings. As assemblies of people, they include all that makes us people, including our daily lives and families, our work and leisure, our hopes and dreams, our local issues and our global aspirations. The Church is us.

As an assembly of people, the Church shares in all that makes us people, and to share it, we need to get to know each other and build up bonds of friendship and community among ourselves. This is not to exclude others. On the contrary, by creating a warm, friendly, family-like environment, we create the conditions that draw others in on a human level so that they can in turn be drawn in on a spiritual level to the deeper life in Christ that truly makes us one. Above all, this leads us to the celebration of the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ who takes away all that divides us and who feeds and unites us from all the different walks of life with the one Bread and one Cup.

That is what it means to be a church built of living stones. Next week, we will conclude our reflection on the meaning of church by reflecting on our own church building and the opportunity we have to become more fully church at St. Boniface thanks to the glass doors between the worship space and the gathering space. Stay tuned!

Fr. Marc Stockton

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