“What is the Church Anyway?”

“What is the Church Anyway?” – Questions 147-160 (Compendium)

“I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH” – The Church in the Plan of God

147. What does the word Church mean?

The word Church refers to the people whom God calls and gathers together from every part of the earth. They form the assembly of those who through faith and Baptism have become children of God, members of Christ, and temples of the Holy Spirit.

  • Latin: “ecclesia” from the Greek for, to “call out of.”

  • Does “Church” refer to a social or political entity?

  • Does “Church” even mean the parish or Diocese that one belongs to?

  • Greater meaning: everyone who answers God’s universal call to love and serve Him.

148. Are there other names and images with which the Bible speaks about the Church?

In Sacred Scripture we find many images which bring out various complementary aspects of the mystery of the Church. The Old Testament favors those images that are bound to the people of God. The New Testament offers images that are linked to Christ as the Head of this people which is his Body. Other images are drawn from pastoral life (sheepfold, flock, sheep), from agriculture (field, olive grove, vineyard), from construction (dwelling place, stone, temple), and from family life (spouse, mother, family).

  • The reality of what the Church is goes beyond any one earthly image

149. What is the origin and the fulfillment of the Church?

The Church finds her origin and fulfillment in the eternal plan of God. She was prepared for in the Old Covenant with the election of Israel, the sign of the future gathering of all the nations. Founded by the words and actions of Jesus Christ, fulfilled by his redeeming death and Resurrection, the Church has been manifested as the mystery of salvation by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. She will be perfected in the glory of heaven as the assembly of all the redeemed of the earth.

  • God has a cosmic plan for humanity: Salvation History

  • The Jewish people (Israel) are the forerunner of the Church

  • After Our Lord came, there are four steps for the Church:

  1. FOUNDED: Our Lord founded the Church

  2. FULFILLED: The Church is made whole by Our Lord’s Death and Resurrection

  3. MANIFESTED: The Church is proclaimed to all after Pentecost (Holy Spirit comes)

  4. PERFECTED: The Church “Triumphant” is united to God, the angels, and the saints in Heaven.

150. What is the mission of the Church?

The mission of the Church is to proclaim and establish the Kingdom of God begun by Jesus Christ among all peoples. The Church constitutes on earth the seed and beginning of this salvific Kingdom.

  • What are some missions of the Church that people might think?

  • Social Justice (Serve the Poor), Influence politics, End all wars, Provide social and political stability

  • These are all good, but the TRUE mission is to “proclaim and establish” the Kingdom of God

  • The Kingdom of God means our union with God, triumph over sin and death, and personal holiness


151. In what way is the Church a mystery?

The Church is a mystery in as much as in her visible reality there is present and active a divine spiritual reality which can only be seen with the eyes of faith.

  • What is a mystery? (Not something to be solved, but something to “enter into,” or contemplate

  • The Church is visible to all people on earth (Pope, Bishops, Priests, physical buildings, Christians, etc.)

  • But the Church is only fully visible to those with the eyes of faith.

  • Just like for some the Eucharist is just a round, thin, off-white wafer, but for others an intimate friend (Our Lord), so the Church is more to those with hearts that believe. 


152. What does it mean to say that the Church is the universal sacrament of salvation?

This means that she is the sign and instrument both of the reconciliation and communion of all of humanity with God and of the unity of the entire human race.

  • What is a sacrament? There are seven and each is “a visible sign of the hidden reality of salvation.”  They not only point to God’s grace in our lives, but actually bring us God’s grace.

  • The Church is a universal sacrament because it is the chief “visible sign” of God’s grace and what brings us all of the sacraments. 

  • It is through the Church that we are made right with God and can be in union with Him. 

The Church: people of God, body of Christ, temple of the Spirit

153. Why is the Church the ‘people of God?’

The Church is the ‘people of God’ because it pleased God to sanctify and save men not in isolation but by making them into one people gathered together by the unity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

  • Why didn’t God just save people individually and not through a huge body of people (the Church)?

  • God is one (three Divine Persons in one God) – He wants unity, so we are saved as a Church, not as isolated individuals.

154. What are the characteristics of the people of God?

One becomes a member of this people through faith in Christ and Baptism. This people has for its origin God the Father; for its head Jesus Christ; for its hallmark the dignity and freedom of the sons of God; for its law the new commandment of love; for its mission to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world; and for its destiny the Kingdom of God, already begun on earth.

  • We become members of the “People of God” though our faith and our baptism

  • We are God’s people, but no group of people “owns” God

  • We have the “dignity and freedom” that only comes from God.  Our society always tells us that being a Christian is boring and limits what you can do.  They tell us that “freedom” comes from doing whatever you want. 

  • Instead, it’s true that our real “dignity and freedom” come from controlling our impulses with God’s help and offering our lives to Him.

155. In what way does the people of God share in the three functions of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King?

The people of God participate in Christ’s priestly office insofar as the baptized are consecrated by the Holy Spirit to offer spiritual sacrifices. They share in Christ’s prophetic office when with a supernatural sense of faith they adhere unfailingly to that faith and deepen their understanding and witness to it. The people of God share in his kingly office by means of service, imitating Jesus Christ who as King of the universe made himself the servant of all, especially the poor and the suffering.

  • Priest: even if we are not an ordained priest, we can still offer sacrifices, like the priest does at Mass.  Don’t waste all your suffering by complaining and getting angry.  Offer them to God for various friends and family (or other intentions).

  • Prophet: St. Francis instructed his followers to “Preach the Gospel always and use words when necessary.” By being witnesses of Christ’s love and peace in every situation we find ourselves in: work, family life, friendships, we can be mighty prophets (and don’t even need to sleep on a rock and eat bugs!)

  • King: Unlike most earthly kings, we can be like Christ the King by serving others, not “lording it over them”

156. In what way is the Church the body of Christ?

The risen Christ unites his faithful people to himself in an intimate way by means of the Holy Spirit. In this way, those who believe in Christ, in as much as they are close to him especially in the Eucharist, are united among themselves in charity. They form one body, the Church, whose unity is experienced in the diversity of its members and its functions.

  • What does the body of Christ mean?

  • This isn’t a political body or student body, but a mystical body

  • Christ unites the faithful to Himself and, through their love for God and one another, the faith are united to each other.

  • Church Militant, Church Suffering, Church Triumphant

157. Who is the Head of this body?

Christ is the Head of the body of Christ, but the “whole Christ” is Christ and His Church.

Christ “is the Head of the body, the Church” (Colossians 1:18). The Church lives from him, in him and for him. Christ and the Church make up the “whole Christ” (Saint Augustine); “Head and members form, as it were, one and the same mystical person” (Saint Thomas Aquinas).

  • St. Joan of Arc, when she was on trial said, “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.”

158. Why is the Church called the “Bride of Christ”?

She is called the “Bride of Christ” because the Lord himself called himself her “Spouse” (Mark 2:19). The Lord has loved the Church and has joined her to himself in an everlasting covenant. He has given himself up for her in order to purify her with his blood and “sanctify her” (Ephesians 5:26), making her the fruitful mother of all the children of God. While the term “body” expresses the unity of the “head” with the members, the term “bride” emphasizes the distinction of the two in their personal relationship.

  •  What is the difference between a “bride” and “body?”

  • It may seem like this language, the Church is the “Bride” and Christ is the “Bridegroom,” is an analogy based on a married couple.

  • Actually, the close relationship that a married couple have (the closest possible between two people on earth) is actually a reflection of this cosmic relationship between Christ and His Church.

159. Why is the Church called the temple of the Holy Spirit?

She is so called because the Holy Spirit resides in the body which is the Church, in her Head and in her members. He also builds up the Church in charity by the Word of God, the sacraments, the virtues, and charisms.

“What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the members of Christ, that is, the body of Christ, which is the Church.” (Saint Augustine)

  •  Holy Spirit dwells within the Church, because the Head (Christ) is filled with the Holy Spirit and all members of the Church in the state of grace (not living in mortal sin) are filled with the Spirit as well.

  • Every human being has body, which is animated by a soul.

  • So too, the Church has a mystical body and it is animated by the Holy Spirit.

160. What are charisms?

Charisms are special gifts of the Holy Spirit which are bestowed on individuals for the good of others, the needs of the world, and in particular for the building up of the Church. The discernment of charisms is the responsibility of the Magisterium.

  • Various members of the Body of Christ, the Church have a charism: it is a particular grace given to the person by the Holy Spirit to be used for the common good.

  • Charisms aren’t super-powers that can be put to good use (or evil) by whatever rogue super-hero (or villain) happens to have them.

  • A Christian who identifies a particular charism (like excellent public speaking, outstanding empathy, or an ability to read the soul of a stranger) must submit him- or herself to the service of the whole body of Christ, the Church.

  • Charisms are to help everyone, not to only profit the one who has one.


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