Building the Church

25 September 2007. Tuesday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Ezra 6, 7-8. 12, 14-20 and Luke 8, 19-21 Building the Church

There are basically two meanings of the word, church. The Scriptures today gives us these two connotations: as a building or structure for public worship and as a body of believers.

The first point is the church is the small c: the reading from the Book of Ezra is about the rebuilding of the temple of Jerusalem. In the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, issued an edict for the Jews exiled in Babylon to return to Jerusalem and construct their temple. This second Temple was completed by Darius the Great in 516 BC. The church is a place of worship. It is a sanctuary, a sacred and holy place where one meets God.

It is easier to bring people together for a specific mission and cause when there is a place to congregate, meet and organize activities. That is why an office, a tambayan, a practice venue is essential in the existence of an organization. This place also provides the environment in which the shared ideals, values, goals are nurtured and maintained.

The second point is the Church is the big C: The Gospel today is about the body of believers. Jesus emphasized that whoever hears the Word of God and acts on it is family to him. The body of believers is united with a common belief and a shared history. The Catholic Church traces its roots to the original Christian community founded by Jesus and his apostles. This body of believers in Jesus is first of all diverse: it is made up of one Western or Latin church (Roman Catholic Church) and 22 Eastern Catholic autonomous churches (eg. Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian, Antiochian or West Syrian, etc.). Though diverse, we all look to the Pope and the College of Bishops as the highest authority on earth for the matters of faith, morals and church governance. Because of this, the Catholic Church is the largest Christian Church, representing half of all Christians and the largest organized body of any world religion. In 2005, the Statistical Yearbook of the church records 1, 114,966,000 members, 1/6 of the world’s population.

But what makes us truly united is not so much the organizational structure and the statistics of today, but the common love and belief in Jesus. In life, our consanguinity (of the same blood, ancestor or origin) does not necessarily make us one. Case in point: our friends know us better — they know our secrets which our family does not necessary have. The Gospel tells us the core of our union with Him: when we listen to the Word of God and act on it. It is not only about knowing our faith, but living what we believe in. St. James, the Apostle said faith without good works is dead.

The governing body such as the College of Bishops provides us with the information we need and at the same time, guide us in the practice of the faith. But this does not exempt us from our personal responsibility: we are, as individuals, asked to know the faith and at the same time reflect and decide how we can live and appropriate our faith to our personal lives.

*this is the Parish of St. John the Baptist. I was baptized here. My vocation grew as I served my town as the organist in church when I was in high school. The smaller picture is the interior of the church in Camalig, Albay. You can see the paintings on the ceiling: the seven sacraments, articles of faith, the four evangelists on the dome, etc. They were visual catechism for many of the faithful.

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