In the New Testament the term used for church is koinonia which means a Spirit-filled body of believers. The Church is people, not mortar and stone, and it is a living entity, guided and led by the Holy Spirit who is imparted to each of us through the sacraments beginning with Baptism. We are one Church, headed by Jesus Christ. Therefore, on this feast day it is in the second reading from St. Paul that our understanding of church is brought into perspective. He said in no uncertain terms that we are God’s building! He wrote that the temple is a living body, built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” (1Cor 3:16-17) We are the Church, the living Body of Christ, and we are holy. No one can take that from us. Furthermore, we need to realize that each part of this living body is important. It is not only about certain parts of the Church or certain members: all are important to the life of the Church. Each of us is a temple of God and each of us is of incredible importance to God. He would not have created us if we were not precious to Him.
This family to which we belong through baptism is imperfect because its members are imperfect, but it is also holy because it is filled with the presence of God. The living temple of the Church has an important function, which is to assist in the work of building the Kingdom. Because we are a flesh and blood Church it is about more than function, however. It means that we are a people, beloved by God, who need to stand in support of one another, especially when we are assailed by the world because we believe. We must stand firm in our faith, sometimes relying on other believers to withstand the assault, all the while clinging to the Holy Spirit who is with us. When we see others in the Body in need of assistance, such as the poor or the ill, we must reach out, remembering they are our brothers and sisters. However, the Body of Christ is called to go further than simply helping our own. We are also to help those who are not members of the Body. If we are not welcoming to them, how do we expect them to see the love of God within the Body? In other words, unless we are open with our love and mercy, if we only minister to those like ourselves, there would be no evangelization, no sharing of the message and reality of God’s love. Furthermore, Jesus taught us to love our enemies and to reach out to the stranger. This does not mean approval of ways that are contrary to the gospel, but it does mean that we are to be kind and compassionate to all the children of God, just as Jesus was. The entire world needs Jesus, and God desires that all of His children be united as one. There is no chance of that if we are not welcoming.
©Michele L. Catanese
The photos are all mine. The first one is the façade of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. It was taken in 2001 using film. The second photo is of the ceiling in the apse of St. John Lateran.
The third photo was taken by digital camera just outside of Taos, New Mexico.
Following next is an icon called Our Lady of the New Advent Gate of Heaven by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I chose this because in this icon Mary represents the dawn of the New Jerusalem. She intercedes for the Church and is the icon of the New Jerusalem for which we yearn. The icon can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/our-lady-of-the-new-advent-gate-of-heaven-003-william-hart-mcnichols.html
Finally the last two photos were also taken with film a number of years ago. The first of the pair was taken in Rancho de Taos, New Mexico. It is of the mission church, San Francisco de Asis. The last photo is a winter scene, the Rio de los Frijoles at Bandelier National Monument, just outside of Los Alamos, New Mexico.